Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Evita Breaks Record for Jupiter Theatre

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre announced that it has completely sold out its run of Evita: that's 100% attendance, folks. This breaks the previous all-time attendance record of 99%, set by Crazy For You.

Evita has been done several times in South Florida, and on at least two occasions at the Jupiter Theatre. But earlier productions never sold like this one!
"This is the first time the Theatre has been able to achieve 100% capacity for the entire run of a show. We are grateful to the stellar creative team and cast for creating this landmark production," says Andrew Kato, Artistic Director of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
Crazy For You ran in the same March time slot in 1996, when Richard Aikens was running the theatre. The theatre never broke 95% during Burt Reynold's tenure as producer, although several shows did do very well.

Congratulations to Andrew and his entire team; it's an amazing feat , particularly in this time of reduced ticket sales nationwide.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Charitable Donations

Jan Sjostrom has been doing a series on how the Palm Beach arts scene is coping with the changed economic climate. The third installment, published in Saturday's Daily News, is also a primer one what your organization should be doing to make itself attractive to prospective donors.

Some examples:
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the art form
  • Demonstrate a quality product (reviews, letters, awards, etc.,)
  • Show that the group is meeting a clearly percieved community need
They have experts commenting on what donors should be looking for, and that is also a clear instruction on what we should be presenting.

The earlier installments that didn't quite catch my eye:
Part one.
Part two.

Carbonell Awards Poll Results

So, it looks like just over half of the poll respondents follow the Carbonell Awards.

I guess we'll be seeing you a week from Monday. And I think that this year we'll get out soon enough to hang out at the cool after-party at Revolution Live.

Waldman sinks to new low

Gary's latest: he's commented on the Herald story about developer Tony Goldman helping the actors - who Waldman left stranded - get home.
GARYWALDMAN wrote on 03/28/2009 01:24:50 PM:
Mr. Goldman, you sound like a lovely, caring person. I am so sorry you were scammed. I know that it is a mistake to post this comment. It will only fuel the fire and put me under further attack, but it doesn't matter anymore. You deserve to know. Any of the email links at www.WiltonManorsTheater.com will be forwarded to me if you wish to respond.
"Fuel the fire?" He flies these people in, fails to pay them, fails to fly them home, then told the actors that since they were telling people about these failures he was no longer obligated to pay them or fly them home, and he's accusing the ACTORS were scamming?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Meanwhile, Beyond the borders of Wilton Manors...

The antics at the 26th Street Theatre aren't the hightlights of the local theatre scene. Believe it or not, there are other theatre stories around:

Two of our community's shining lights have received well-deserved accolades:
  • David Arisco, Artistic Director at Actors' Playhouse, will be honored with the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts at the 33rd annual Carbonell Awards. I took over a corner of his desk in 2001, and spent the next six years working 50 hours a week - and he still had the whole rest of his desk to take care of! You can read more about it in The Drama Queen.
  • Speaking of whom, Christine Dolen, the Drama Queen herself, was honored by the Mosaic Theatre, who awarded her its Jack Zink Spirit Award. It was part of the theater's annual gala. Read about it in the Miami Herald.
Speaking of awards, the Carbonell Awards are comming up fast. Savannah Whaley updates us on their website. Lower prices, leaner staging, and re-designed trophies bring us into a new era of the ceremony. Ticketholders are invited to a free after-party hosted by the Theatre League of South Florida at Revolution Live, located a few blocks from the Broward Center.

Christine Dolen reports that the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theater has new digs in that city's upscale Galleria Mall - at least for now:
LogoFounded in 1952, Florida's oldest children's theater plans to eventually build its own stand-alone facility on Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. But the move to Galleria, 2414 E. Sunrise Blvd., will allow the company to expand the offerings in its year-round programming for kids from 3 1/2 to 18.

Up in West Palm Beach, Ballet Florida sues its real estate agent. If you recall, the company was going to sell their building to the city so they could pay off debt, fund the rest of their season, and reorganize for the future. Instead, the ballet had to cancel the remainder of its current season and laid off much of its company.

Meanwhile, across the lake in toney Palm Beach, the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed.


Florida Arts Funding in Jeopardy

From the Broward County Cultural Division:

Each year the Arts has to claw its way back into the State Budget. In the past three years, the budget for Cultural Arts has been cut by 82%...far more than any other Department...hold on, haven't got to the depressing part yet.

Now the House wants to drop from $7.2 million to $2.7million...for all the museums, theatres, dance companies, fellowships, cultural facilities...and of course film festivals...$2.7 million for the whole State. Still not at the depressing part...here it comes, The Senate has indicated $0 for the

Please call Sen Chris Smith and register your support for the arts...and, to maintain the current funding level of $7.2 million.


Below is contact information for Senator Chris Smith

Chris Smith District Offices:

1977 North Tamarind Avenue
West Palm Beach, FL 33407
(561) 650-6801
Senate VOIP: 42900
FAX (561) 650-6819
Legislative Assistants:
Sharonda Wright-Placide, Beatrice Coleman and Diane Randolph

1101 N.E. 40th Court
Suite 1
Oakland Park, FL 33334
(954) 267-2114
Senate VOIP: 42910
FAX (954) 267-2116

Chris SmithTallahassee Office:
220 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
(850) 487-5112
Senate VOIP: 5112

Stranded Actors Got a Helping Hand

So how did the actors that Gary Waldman and Jamison Troutman get home?

The Miami Herald reports that Tony Goldman stepped in.

Goldman offered to give $150 plus airfare from Miami to New York to each of the six actors cast to perform in a production of the musical The Life, which was to begin this week.

''I was touched,'' said Goldman, who read about the actors' plight in Friday's Miami Herald. "I'm a New Yorker. I felt for the kids. I have an acting degree from Emerson College. It's not an easy deal out there.''

At the time of this posting, it was too early for Waldman to post a nasty remark in the comments section for the article.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Waldman Gone Wild!

This is the comment appended to the Miami Herald's article about Gary Waldman's latest theatrical venture:

Gary Waldman is his own worst enemy: first, he doesn't secure the funding for his theatre project, then the project falls apart. Then he blames someone else.

Sadly, this isn't the first time Gary Waldman and Jamison Troutman brought a group of actors far from their homes, and then abandoned them. The show was I WRITE THE SONGS, and the hall was the Imperial Palace Casino. Troutman and Waldman maintain it is the Casino's fault that the cast of the show was unpaid and abandoned in Mississippi.
I've felt jaded and turned off ever since this Mississippi debacle. For those of you who don't know, my cast of "I Write The Songs" got stiffed by our producers, a couple of old queerbags named Gary Waldman and Jamison Troutman. DON'T EVER WORK FOR THESE JERKS..
- Ryan Flanigan, actor
Those are the words of Ryan Flanigan, whom I contacted in January after Gary and Jamison claimed they didn't owe any actors any money. So I contacted Ryan, and asked if he's received any of the pay they owe him:
They sure as hell did not. They haven't paid any of us. Bunch of frauds. They are trying to do another show too.
I'm sure they've done several since the mess in Biloxi. Waldman maintains that it's because the Imperial Palace Casino reneged on an agreement, and he claims that there is an ongoing lawsuit over the matter. But the real issue is who signed a contract with these performers: the Casino, or Waldman and/or Troutman?

For the sake of argument, let's assume that perhaps Waldman and Troutman shouldn't be held responsible for leaving the cast of I Write the Songs in the lurch: maybe theey really were merely acting as agents for the casino. (And 'maybe I look good in a size two evening gown,' I know, but this is for the sake of argument.) One would think, that having been burned once by not having the funds in the bank to cover actors' wages and transportation costs, they'd make damned sure to have those funds secure for the next production.

Which brings us to The Life.

On March 10, the cast of The Life flew arrived in South Florida. Not one of them is a member of a performer's union. Like most begininning actors, they didn't have a long resumé of shows under the belt. Nevertheless, the theatre's recorded messages announced "a production starring a first-rate, blockbuster cast of actors out of New York!"

Jasmine Torres reported that the theatre was a mess when the cast arrived, with trash strewn in the house. Some performers were a little nervous that their first paycheck was drawn on someone's personal account instead of a proper company check with a paystub. But work continued. The promised transportation never appeared: the actors were informed that it was "only a fifteen minute walk."

Rehearsals continued.

The South Florida Blade interviewed the boys during that first week of rehearsal:
Waldman and Troutman, who are running the theater as a for-profit company, a rarity in the performing arts, are betting on the appeal of the play (along with a New York cast) years later in a larger community and theater.
A bold move in a troubled economy! But there's more:
Waldman said they haven’t decided what shows they will stage after “The Life” ends its run, to allow an open-ended run if the show is a hit.
The article ends with a quote from Waldman:
“The theater is a local production house, but it’s also a place to give birth to a ‘product’. We’ll run it here as long as we can then we’ll take it national (on tour) or back to New York,” he says.
Tuesday night, Jamison Troutman informed the cast that the show was being canceled because they lost their funding, and that no one was getting paid, and that he and Gary weren't sure how they were going to get the actors home. The cast hadn't seen Waldman since the weekend.

As anyone in theatre can tell you, non-union actors live from paycheck to paycheck. Not getting paid is a disaster. Not getting paid means you don't eat.

Jasmine Torres worried that Troutman wouldn't give any of the cast an idea of when they might get something to at least tide them over, or what the timetable for flying them home was. So she called her agent back in New York, to see if he could do anything. She had found the job on her own, so the agent hadn't been involved in negotiating the contract, and wasn't collecting a fee, but who was going to find answers? Her agent agreed to make some calls.

According to Torres, her agent reported that Waldman screamed a string of obscenities over the phone before hanging up. Waldman then called Torres and informed her that by going to her agent, she had terminated her contract: he was no longer obligated to pay her, house her, or send her home.

That's when Torres went on the internet to find someone who could help her and her castmates: she wrote me, The Miami Herald, several members of the Theatre League, some folks with Broadway Across America, Hap Erstein, and several other reporters.

You may recall that I spoke with Jamison Troutman yesterday, to find out what was going on, and his version of events was very different:
"They've all been met with, and they know that we're doing what we can to take care of them. I suppose it's possible that one or two of them isn't happy with that."
Today, I spoke with Jasmine Torres, and asked her if anyone from 26th Street had met with her after she and I had talked. She was very firm:
"We haven't heard from anyone. They never stated they intended to pay us, or gave us any indication they were working on flights. And now they're saying that we're the reason the show closed!"
Now that seems hard to believe, but the Miami Herald also reports:
Waldman said he intends to pay the actors' wages and airfare to return home, but he blamed them for delaying his efforts with phone calls and e-mails.
And then Gary himself appended a comment to the article:
...these people were HORRIBLE. Selfish, completely un-directable (yet needing all of the help they could get), lazy, worthless, no-nothing creeps. We closed the show because it was AWFUL. I would not put my name on it (nor take a customer's money for it) even if it meant going through this, which was no surprise. No surprise at all."
So much for his "cast of blockbuster stars." Of course, this doesn't jibe with their telling The Blade that they were thinking of keeping it running; the article appeared over week after rehearsals started. Even after a few days, they should have had an idea if the show was in trouble.

But let's say that Gary is actually being honest with us, and that his entire cast was completely inept. Who cast these people? Gary Waldman cast them. So who's to blame if they suck? Gary Waldman.

But in fact, the quality of their work is not an issue in the current debacle: the point here is that he hasn't paid the actors that he flew in from out of state. Period. Actors in rehearsal can't have any impact on a show's funding. How could they? No one can see them, no one can decide not to buy tickets on the basis of a performance they haven't seen. Either Gary had the funds in hand, or he didn't. And it's very obvious that, once again, he didn't. How do I surmise that? Because he hasn't paid his actors.

I'm still trying to figure out how it is the actors didn't have return flights available: it's much cheaper to book round trip than one way: so they should all have had return flights available. What happened to those return tickets? Were they cashed in to help the company's cash flow?

And here's another point to ponder; Gary and Jamison have produced this show (to great acclaim) in South Florida, with South Florida based actors (who were criticially praised): curious that they decided to cast mostly out of state when they garnished so much critical praise with locals last time.

Well, interestingly enough, one of the comments to the Herald article speaks to this question:
My wife was the original Queen in their first production of The Life and then in The Last Session. They are in debt to her for over $1000.00 which they will not pay. The reason they went with "out-of-towners" for this show is because no local talent will work for them. Now you know why. My wife and I will be more than happy to back you guys up. I am sure you will find more people to help.
Maybe Gary is avoiding you, but The South Florida Theatre Scene isn't. Leave us a comment.

Speaking of comments on the Herald article, Gary posted back about an hour later:

It's a shame he didn't agree to meet with the police when they were out there on Thursday. They wanted to meet with him and get his side of the story. Instead, Gary screamed at Officer Sweat and hung up on her. The good news is that NBC6 had a camera crew out there, and interviewed the cast in the living room. We can all view the tape to see if, in fact, there was a large LCD television in there. We can also watch Officer Sweat's end of the conversation as Gary told her to "butt out" from his business.

I'm really looking forward to reading that police report. I'll post it when I get a hold of it.

After that phone call, the police told the cast members that they would do some extra patrols, because they agreed that the cast probably was right to be concerned that someone "that emotionally engaged" might "act out."

The police on duty also took up a collection and bought some food for the actors, who didn't have any money on them since they hadn't been paid. According to Jasmine Torres, it was the police who "strongly suggested" that the actors contact friends and family for help getting out of the situation "as quickly as possible."

I spoke to Jasmine Torres this afternoon: she was calling from an airport during a layover on her flight home. A flight her family helped pay for, and she arranged herself.
"We, the rest of the cast and me, we just want to do whatever we can to make sure these guys can't do this again. They're crazy! The things they said to us. They told us that since we complained, that meant we terminated our contracts and they didn't have to pay us! That they no longer owed us anything! This isn't how producers are supposed to treat people. We just want to make sure that everyone knows about these con artists. They shouldn't be allowed to do this."
You're right, Jasmine. They shouldn't be allowed to do this. Not again and again and again. Everybody makes mistakes: but these two are making the same mistakes over and over and over again, and they are doing damage, real damage.

I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that transporting people to another state with the promise of employment while knowing that there isn't money in the bank to cover their salaries must constitute fraud at some level or other. And if it doesn't, it ought to.

The good news is that word is starting to get out. My articles on Gary and Jamison have been in the top ten most-read pages on The Scene since they were published. Now it's time to make sure that theatre professionals know to research producers who want to transport them far from home before accepting those non-union out of town gigs.

Tell your friends.

CAGNEY! is the show to see this weekend

..at least, according to the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post.

He was a movie tough guy and the quintessential song-and-dance man. Actor Jimmy Cagney and his colorful career are the focus of Cagney!, the world premiere musical opening this weekend at Florida Stage
Creighton is taking a two-month leave from his role as Chef Louis on Broadway in Disney's The Little Mermaid to star in Cagney! But Creighton doesn't mind temporarily leaving the Great White Way. Cagney!, after all, is a project Creighton has been itching to produce for more than 15 years.
Learn more about CAGNEY! at Florida Stage's FurtherMore page. In addition to show notes, there are clips of classic Jimmy Cagney moments from his many films.

The Herald on the 26th Theatre incident

The Miami Herald picks up the story first reported here on the South Florida Theatre Scene:

''We're a business that is stopping a production for a variety of reasons, most of them economic,'' said Gary Waldman, producing artistic director of the Wilton. ``Right now anybody that has tickets for the show is getting a phone call and getting refunded.''

However, tickets for all scheduled performances of The Life were still being sold online Thursday by ShowClix, a Pennsylvania-based company.

When I called the theater on Thursday afternoon, the recorded message was still pushing tickets as well. It also referred to the actors as "superstars from New York City."

''We're stuck,'' said Heather Gault, 23, a New York City actress who said she auditioned for her role after answering a casting call posted on Playbill.com.


She said the actors were sent home from rehearsals early on Tuesday -- the day before preview performances were scheduled to open -- and told by Waldman that he had no money to pay them. She said Waldman and Troutman still owe her and the other actors one week's pay and airfare.

Jonathan Juarbe, 23, said he felt cheated by the producers.

''They screwed us over, big time,'' he said.

Typically, Gary Waldman is busy blaming the wrong people for his problems:
Waldman said he intends to pay the actors' wages and airfare to return home, but he blamed them for delaying his efforts with phone calls and e-mails.
Hm. Interesting accusation, considering that it was his job, as producer, to have their wages and return airfare covered before he hired anyone.

Waldman, as previously reported on the Theatre Scene, is on the "strike list" of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSD&C), which is the union for directors and choreographers. According to the SSD&C website:

Members may not accept
employment from any theatre or
producer on the SSDC Strike List.

This issue could not have happened at a theater abiding by an Actors' Equity Association contract. AEA is the union for stage actors, and one of their requirements is that the producer of a show must put up a bond to cover actors' wages in the event of a sudden closing. And that requirement exists because of producers like Gary Waldman and Jamison Troutman.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

26th Street Theatre cancels The Life - UPDATED

26-St-Theater-If you'll recall, back in January I wrote "Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave!" and reported that Gary Waldman and Jamison Troutman had a string of failed projects, and former employees left unpaid, charges Waldman and Troutman vigorously deny. It's been one of the most read stories on my blog, according to the statistics counter. And since that time, I occasionally get a supportive email, or a tip to follow up on.

In the last few hours, I have recieved numerous reports that the cast of The Life, scheduled to the grand re-opening of the 26th Street Theatre in Wilton Manors, hadn't been paid. Apparently, one of the non-union actors, lacking any representation, was contacting every person in South Florida Theatre they could reach. A major producer, a professional organization, area newspapers, and this blog were all contacted.

This is a snippet of the emails flying around;
...quite frankly I do not know who to turn to, all I know is that I want to prevent these two producers from doing what they have done to me and the rest of my cast to others... They refuse to give me my paycheck for the week I worked and leaving me stranded in Florida without a flight home...we are all waiting in limbo staying in a "cast house" in wilton manors that is being sold in less then two weeks. We all really need help from the south florida theatre community..."
I did confirm that one of the actors with The Life was the source of the email. They were very upset, not just with the way the company was run, but how Gary Waldman in particular reacted; by yelling and screaming.

The same actor reported that Gary did apologize a short time later.

I spoke with Jamison Troutman late this afternoon. He politely confirmed that their production of The Life has been canceled due to 'unforeseen circumstances.' He assures me that no one is going to be stranded.
"It took us two weeks to get them down here, and it's going to take a day or two to get them home safely. We weren't expecting to send them back so soon."
When I asked about their pay, he informed me that all the actors are being dealt with, although he wouldn't go so far as to claim they have been paid:
"They've all been met with, and they know that we're doing what we can to take care of them. I suppose it's possible that one or two of them isn't happy with that."
He did mention that the discussions occurred very late last night. I know that my conversation with one of the actors took place around 9:30 pm.
"They are staying in a beautiful house for now, and they are all going to be flown home. It's my concern that they get home safely, that's what I'm working on. But they are absolutely going to get home."
I was unable to reach my source to confirm that these meetings had occurred.

It's a shame that what this cast is going to remember is how they almost got stranded in South Florida. The next time one of the smaller South Florida theaters tries to cast out of New York, they'll have some extra hoops to jump through.

************UPDATE 7:00PM
This story will air on NBC 6, on their 7pm newscast.

Just a note: comments are always welcome, (and somehow I expect a lot of comments on this one) but abusive language isn't. Keep it polite.


The Scene for March 27, 2009

Things are still cooking in South Florida, although it's just starting to slow down. Only two days left on the current Carbonell poll, but I'll have new one up on Monday.

Just a reminder: Clicking on a highlighted show title leads you to the review summaries for that show.

CAGNEY! opens at Florida Stage.

A brand new musical celebration! A tour-de-force production! A tribute to a legend of film and stage! From the mean streets of New York came Jimmy Cagney, an accomplished "hoofer" and the cinema's quintessential tough guy. This is an intimate portrait of the man, his art and his politics, his love of family and his enormous generosity. Full of fabulous music and astonishing dance, come celebrate Cagney, America's favorite gangster and beloved Yankee Doodle Dandy.

what's playing

Les Miserables plays at Actors' Playhouse through April 5th, 2009. So far, the critics are raving gushing about this one.

The Weir plays at Palm Beach Drama Works through April 5th, 2009.

Evita plays at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through April 5, 2009.

passing through...

Dame Edna, My First Last Tour
plays at Parker Playhouse through March 28, 2009.

Don't blink! Chicago blasts through the Arsht Center in Miami this weekend only.

A Jew Grows in Brooklyn plays at West Palm Beach's Cuillo Center through April 5, 2009.

last chance to see...

The Glass Menagerie, the Tennessee Williams masterpiece of American drama, plays at New Theatre in Coral Gables through March 29, 2009. An exceptional production of an American classic.

Caldwell Theater presents Dangerous, the world premier of Michael McKeever's latest play, through March 29th. It's racy, it's naughty, it's the most reviewed show currently playing.

Sugar runs through March 29th at the Broward Stage Door Theatre.

for kids

Alice in Wonderland plays at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables through April 4.

Cinderella plays at Sol Children's Theatre Troup through March 29.

Monday, March 23, 2009

3 Weeks Out, a look 33 years back.

The 33rd annual Carbonell Awards will be held at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on April 6, 2009. I was checking the website to see what announcements have been made since the nominations (none) when I discovered an article describing the very first awards, back in 1976.

I knew things were different back then, but I did not realize how different.

They were not called the Carbonell Awards: they were the Theatre Circle Awards, and they were nominated and judged by the South Florida Entertainment Writers’ Assn., Inc. (Basically, it was the theater critics for all the South Florida newspapers).

There were a lot fewer theaters participating:
Parker Playhouse
Miami Beach Theater of the Performing Arts (The Jackie Gleason Theater)
Coconut Grove Playhouse
But even fewer actual producers: the Parker Playhouse and Miami Beach Theatre for the Performing Arts were rental halls, as they are to this day, although Parker had facilities for some fabrication. But those were used by the companies coming in to present the plays.

So here's who was producing the plays:
Zev Buffman Entertainment
The Coconut Grove Playhouse.
Yah. Not much of theatre scene back then. Of course, fewer theaters and fewer producers means fewer plays: everything was lumped together, musicals and plays, tours and local productions:
The King & I, Magnificent Yankee, Mame, That Championship Season, The Student Prince, Mack & Mable, The Mousetrap, Me & Bessie, Funny Girl, Norman, Is That You?, Diamond Studs, and Oh, Calcutta
That's 12 productions on three stages by 2 companies. This year, there are 30 productions by 16 companies on 17 stages (City Theatre plays both the Arsth Center and the Broward Center).

The performers vying for the awards in 1976 is even more surprising; there were a lot of names that I am completely familiar with:
David Cryer, David McCallum, Jason Robards, James Whitmore, Linda Hopkins, Angela Lansbury, Audra Lindley, Constance Towers, George Dzundza, Lawrence Pressman, Olivia Barash, Jane Connell,
There will be far fewer celebrities at this year's ceremony, although there will be more than enough star power to go around. Of the one hundred seventy five attendees at the first awards, I do not know how many were the honorees. But April 6th will see the year's largest gathering of theatre professionals in South Florida; it's the one time we all gather together from across three counties into one place.

And in honor of the awards (and because I finally figured out how to use the gadget) I have a poll up in the sidebar. It will change each week until the awards. Just a little fun until we get there.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: Evita (2 reviews)

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre opened Evita on March 17, 2009.

Marc Robin directed a cast that includes Jodie Langel, Rudy Martinez, David Studwell, Curt Dale Clark, and Kelly McGillicuddy.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...from the first glimpse of Robert Kovach’s scenic design — a post-modern abstract landscape of twisted latticework, kind of a cross between the Beijing bird’s-nest stadium and I.M. Pei’s Louvre pyramids — on the Maltz Jupiter Theatre stage, it seemed to promise a new take on the show, not unlike the company’s recent directorial preconceiving of Barnum.

Instead, guest director Marc Robin is content to settle for a traditional staging, with no discernible new ideas of his own. That said, Evita is a complex show that is hard to pull off well, and the Maltz production is very proficient, in no small part because of the performance of Jodie Langel as that tramp of the Pampas, Eva.
Kevin D. Thompson reviewed for the Palm Beach Post:

While Evita is wonderful to look at - Robert Kovach's set design is impressive and Donald Thomas' clever use of lighting beautifully heightens the tension - a full musical format never allows theatergoers to peek inside the soul of Peron (Jodie Langel). It's all style and not enough meaty character substance.

To many, Evita will forever remain Patti LuPone, who played Peron to Tony Award-winning perfection on Broadway. But Langel puts her own stamp on the iconic figure. Not only does she have a beautiful singing voice, Langel also commands the stage in a way all leading actresses should.

Personally, I'm not fond of reviews the refer to other productions; it's rarely relevant. Most South Florida theatre patrons have never seen LuPone perform this role; and she hasn't played it for a very long time. I've seen Connie Saloutus play it twice - once at Jupiter Theatre, in fact. She's played Eva Peron at least four times in Florida, why doesn't Thompson mention that? Because it's not relevant, and neither is LuPone. Stick to the play you're watching, Kevin. Nothing else matters.

Speaking of which:

Evita represents the largest musical ever staged at the Maltz and features a 20-person cast, an 11-member children's choir (all local kids) and a 10-piece orchestra. The stage could've felt crowded but doesn't under Marc Robin's direction. Ironically, the larger-than-life production plays better small. The more intimate setting will make audiences feel as if they're in Argentina themselves along with Evita during one of her rousing speeches.

Kevin should have seen it at Jan McArt's Royal Palm Dinner Theatre. The stage was only 17' x 14', and surrounded by the audience (Royal Palm was theater-in-the-round).

Evita plays at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through April 5, 2009.

Observations on Regional Theatre

The Denver Post interviews storyteller Mike Daisey; and he's highly critical of regional theatre:

Denver Post: People are always quoting to me from your "How Theater Failed America." Can you summarize your premise?

Mike Daisey: The principal argument is that the theatrical establishment in America has lost sight of the values that led to the establishment of regional theaters, and in its place are institutions that value buildings over artists, isolation over engagement and corporate growth over artistic development.

On top and in part because of this is a shrinking and aging audience base, which has led to an art form in contraction, with less and less audience every year. We pay artists and workers starvation wages and make it impossible for a national theater to take root here, while at the same time engaging in orgies of building construction that
defy logic or sense.

We have forgotten that the play's the thing — the show attempts to illustrate that with stories from my years working in theaters across the country, and tries to shake us from our slumber.

Denver Post: You have described the slow death of newspapers as "the next great crisis of the American regional theater." Why?

Mike Daisey: Theater is deeply interdependent on the newspaper industry — theater critics have been an integral part of theater's identity for more than a century, woven into the core rituals of opening night, previews and so forth. With the current model of newspapers collapsing, we will lose that support system of critical feedback, and it will strike a deep blow to theater's sense of itself as a relevant art form.

It doesn't got into a great deal of depth, but reading it forces us to consider a lot of our pre-conceptions.

He has a point about construction: a development director once confided that it was much easier to raise money for constructing a building than anything else. "You can point at a building and show them their money," she said. "It's harder to do that with programming."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gablestage: Defiance (3 reviews)

DEFIANCE by John Patrick ShanleyJohn Patrick Shanley's Defiance opened at GableStage on February 21, and runs through March 22nd. It features Paul Homza, Bill Schwartz, Patti Gardner, Reiss Gaspard, Paul Tei, and Ezra Jesse Bookman.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach Arts Paper, publishing just one day before the play closes:
While it is not up to its predecessor in quality and ambiguity, Defiance again puts ethics and personal quandaries center stage, offering actors a number of juicy roles which the GableStage cast devours.

Director Joseph Adler gets a nicely nuanced performance from Gaspard as a man who would prefer invisibility to prominence. And Tei is cast against type, as far removed from his usual hip, edgy roles, which makes the chaplain all the more compelling.

Patti Gardner lends capable support as Littlefield’s dutiful, but questioning military wife and newcomer Ezra Jesse Bookman makes the most of a brief appearance as a soldier whose sudden desire to see action in Vietnam proves pivotal
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed it for the Miami New Times:
Defiance, now enjoying its regional premiere at Joe Adler's GableStage, is ... newer than Doubt, and less famous, but every bit as powerful.
Brandon spends a lot of time talking about playwright John Patrick Shanley's work, and how this play relates to it, but we get a taste of this production:
The base is boiling with violent racial unrest, and Col. Morgan Littlefield (Bill Schwartz), the base commander, is determined to root it out... It's difficult to tell how much of Littlefield's gruff affability resides in Schwartz's portrayal or Shanley's script, but at least in this production, it's impossible not to like the guy.
Even Brandon realizes at some point that he's been talking about the script instead of the production, which regular readers will recognize as my own pet peeve. But he speaks out in his own defense:
You might sense I'm extolling the virtues of Shanley's script at the expense of GableStage's production. I'm not. The minutiae under discussion would be absent from the show if director Joe Adler hadn't reached deep into his considerable reservoirs of talent and discovered a capacity for shrewdness and subtlety that is too often underutilized in his shows (there are many superlatives one could attach to the average Adler joint, but subtle isn't one).
OK, Brandon. That's a fair observation, and one worth noting. Besides, you wind up with a review of the production itself:
Defiance is a play that explores big concepts in tiny moments and requires extraordinary sympathy from its interpreters to avoid disintegration into a gush of useless words. Without, say, Reiss Gaspard injecting a little pain under the façade of Captain King's propriety, King would be a bit of a twat, and you'd wonder why Shanley decided to write a play about him. As it is, Gaspard and his costars act as organically — as invisibly — as Shanley wrote. Like Shanley, they leave their egos at home and meet us in the theater not to instruct or judge, but to wonder.
High praise, indeed. Make sure you click through and read the entire review; Brandon's always a good read.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Defiance, written in 2006 as a follow-up to Doubt, explores a another hierarchical culture and a different sexual misdeed, but it means to be as thought-provoking as Doubt. It isn't, nor is it as good as its predecessor, but you will scarcely
realize that if you catch Joseph Adler's razor-sharp new production of Defiance at GableStage.

The journey...is absorbing, thanks to Adler's astute direction of a powerful cast.
The play may be worth it simply to finally see Tei in a role that goes against type:
Tei, in the antithesis of his own artist-hipster persona, delivers a funny, cagey, delightfully nuanced performance.
But Christine found a lot of strong performances in this production, be sure to click through to the full review.

Mosaic Theatre: Dead Man's Cell Phone [4 reviews]

Earlier this season, Mosaic Theatre announced that they would replace David Mamet's A Life in the Theater with Sara Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone.

Ruhl's plays are rarely produced in South Florida, and Artistic Director Richard Jay Simon not only landed a new play by a leading playwright, but also the actress whom inspired a leading character in the play. Those opportunities don't come along every day, and Simon was wise to seize the moment.

Norm Johnson directs a cast including Polly Noonan, Barbarba Bradshaw, Deborah L. Sherman, Jim Ballard, Erin Joy Schmidt, and Antonio Amadeo.

The play opened February 26 and runs through March 22.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach Arts Paper, and published the day before closing:
In Mosaic Theatre’s production of Dead Man’s Cell Phone, much-touted playwright Sarah Ruhl is also in a similar mood to the one she struck in The Clean House, the quirky comedy with intimations of mortality that she made her area debut with at the Caldwell Theatre two years ago.

But unfortunately, both works have intriguing premises that draw an audience in before losing their way and failing to make much of a point.

The leap of faith Ruhl asks us to take with Jean is believing that she then feels compelled to become the unknown corpse’s personal answering service, pocketing the phone and taking his subsequent calls.

Offbeat would be an understatement for Jean, but somehow Polly Noonan, who originated the role in Washington in 2007, makes her nervous insecurities endearing. Also a standout is Jim Ballard as Gordon, who gets the opportunity to have his say in the second act, even though he is deceased.
Christine Dolen reviewed it for the Miami Herald:
It's a play that seems to glide and float, even though it deals with morality, betrayal and that heaviest of subjects, death.

That graceful, funny treatment of issues that cut to the bone is pure Ruhl. And it helps make the dazzlingly acted production of Dead Man's Cell Phone at Plantation's Mosaic Theatre must-see art for anyone who craves both style and substance from a theatrical experience.

She found that director Norm Johnson had things well in hand, but found that Set Designer Sean McClelland had a rare miss. He was working on Les Miserable at Actors' Playhouse at the same time as this production, so perhaps the prolific designer was stretched a little too thin this time.

She had lots to say about the performances:

It is an enormous boon to the production to have Polly Noonan, whom Ruhl imagined in the leading role when she wrote the play, returning to the role of Jean, a woman who plunges into a dead man's world when she answers his insistently ringing cellphone. But there is no qualitative disparity between Noonan's work and the performances by the rest of the cast, which includes some of South Florida's finest actors.

Bradshaw's Mrs. Gottlieb is a hilarious, grieving, booze-swilling ''monster'' who mentions to Jean -- as an incredulous-but-used-to-it Dwight looks on -- that Gordon was her ''only son.'' When we get to hear from Gordon, speaking from the other side of the divide between life and death, Ballard makes him both cocky and undeniably charismatic. Sherman is riotously funny when, as the thoroughly soused Hermia, she tells Jean in way too much detail about the tricks she used to achieve sexual satisfaction with Gordon. Chic and mysterious, Schmidt's mistress is the anti-Jean. And Amadeo makes the tender Dwight Jean's endlessly caring male counterpart.

Bill Hirschman reviewed it for the Sun-Sentinel. (And I hope they keep this up; all these plays deserve a Sentinel review and not a re-tread).

If the nonsense of Lewis Carroll and the phantasmagoria of Tony Kushner could produce a love child, it would likely look like the delightfully absurd daffiness of Sarah Ruhl's philosophical farce Dead Man's Cell Phone at the Mosaic Theatre.

Guest director Norm Johnson is usually in perfect sync with the unsync-able mad tea party that Ruhl has created.

Noonan, a pal of Ruhl's who played the role twice before, deftly disappears inside this awkward Candide with crossed eyes and reedy pleading voice who aches to be needed and loved.

The supporting cast (including Antonio Amadeo, Jim Ballard and Erin Joy Schmidt) is first rate, but honor is due the imperious batty doyenne created by Barbara Bradshaw and Promethean Theatre's Deborah L. Sherman, whose rigidly angry wife loosens under the influence of crimson liqueur into a hilarious monster awash in sloppy self-pity.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed it for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Philosophical question: If a play includes a character so annoying that it becomes unwatchable, is it still a good play?

I'm all for "challenging" theater. I'm just not convinced the challenge should lie in not ripping off your ears every time an actress opens her mouth. Jean(Polly Noonan) squirms and simpers and stalls and squirms some more before every little fib, and she does it all in a horrible squeak of a voice.

Jean's nauseating existence is made somewhat palatable by a lovely all-white set from scene designer Sean McClelland and an ensemble cast of SoFla's finest. Those who play Gordon's family and associates — Antonio Amadeo, Erin Joy Schmidt, Deborah L. Sherman, and especially Barbara Bradshaw — deliver inspired performances that make you wonder what a marvelous little family drama this could have been if only (the dead man) had set his phone to "vibrate" when sitting down to eat.

Dead Man's Cell Phone plays at Mosaic Theatre through March 22.

Tough times for South Florida Theatre

The buzz this week is the economy. While Congress is pounding on AIG, and the nation wonders about that $700 billion dollar bail-out, South Florida theaters are figuring out how to keep their doors open. There are several articles out in area papers.

The Sun-Sentinel's article in today's edition checks in with all the major players, and Sean Piccoli reports back what most of us know;
"Everybody's revenue is down," says Mary Becht, director of the Broward County Cultural Division.
This story has a follow-up scheduled for tomorrow:"Local theater companies plan changes for next season."

But Bill Hirschman expands on this story today in his Sun-Sentinel article:
A panicked philanthropist called the Mosaic Theatre recently with one of the strangest pleas Artistic Director Richard Jay Simon had ever heard: The cash-strapped donor asked if the Plantation theater would return the family's financial gift.'
It's the stuff of nightmares: you finally get the funds lined up to do a show, and the money literally vanishes before you can spend it. This is what happened to New Vista's production of The Producers.
"I wish people really understood that only 60 percent of a theater's revenue is derived from ticket sales [and] 40 percent comes from donations," Simon said. "You could walk into a sold-out theater and that venue could go bankrupt the next day."
Hirschman spells out why fundraising is especially difficult in South Florida:
South Florida faces aggravating factors. First, it has no huge corporate base built around a mega-donor like Coca-Cola in Atlanta. Second, theaters are spread out over four counties rather than in a centralized theater district; even devoted theatergoers can be deterred by long drives.
Even that isn't a guarantee: Seaside Music Theatre in Daytona Beach closed after 30 years of operations when their region's corporate "mega-donor," the News-Journal Corporation, was forced to drastically reduce its philanthropic efforts after Cox Enterprises sued the bejesus out of them.
Third, theater has been a vital facet of South Florida for less than 25 years. "Organizations that have existed for 70 or 80 years have endowments and patrons who have handed down the tradition from generation to generation," said Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs.
It's the old story; old money holds up better in an economic crisis, but the theatre scene in South Florida is too young to have tapped into it.

In a story that relates directly to those in the Sentinel, Palm Beach ArtsPaper's Greg Stepanich reports that Ballet Florida has canceled the rest of its season. They were scheduled to perform at the Broward Center April 4th-5th before moving up to Palm Beach Community College's Duncan Theater on April 24th, and winding up at the Eissey Campus Theater the first week of May.

But don't write off this venerable South Florida institution just yet:
The company plans to resume performances for its 24th season on Dec. 23-28, when it will present its annual Christmastime production of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker at the Kravis Center. The 2009-10 season is also scheduled to include world premieres by leading choreographers Jerry Opdenaker, Ben Stevenson, Ron de Jesus and Ma Cong, the company said today.

In addition, the activities of the Academy of Ballet Florida will continue uninterrupted, and auditions for next season scheduled for Sunday will take place as planned.
The company had been planning on a suffusion of funds from the sale of their building to the city of West Palm Beach. The deal was that the city would purchase the property and lease it back to the company for $1 a year for the next five years. That would have allowed the company to continue its programming, erase existing debt, and given them some time do some re-structuring of the organization. But the city reneged on the deal at the very last minute.

The Palm Beach Daily News and the Palm Beach Post also have stories out about Ballet Florida's announcement.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Have Lunch with Playwright Rick Elice

Rick EliceIn an exclusive South Florida appearance, Broward Center for the Performing Arts presents an "Inside the Actor's Studio"-style interview with Rick Elice and moderator Bill Hirschman, Sun-Sentinel special correspondent, in the intimate Abdo New River Room.

Join Rick Elice, co-writer of Jersey Boys, the 2006 Tony Award–winning Best Musical about rock-and- roll Hall-of-Famers The Four Seasons (Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy Devito, and Nick Massi) for an insider’s look at the show.

The event is Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 12:00pm, and the tickets are only $20.00. That includes a gourmet box lunch with Vegetarian, Beef and Turkey options.
"Creating a musical based on living people who each have their own points of view created its own challenges. It was like riding the "Wild Mouse" at Coney Island... I've seen a lot of things and what you rarely see is a standing ovation in the middle of a show. That happens with Jersey Boys."
- Rick Elice

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kravis Center: Legally Blonde (3 Reviews)

Legally Blonde is a musical based on the popular movie starring Reese Witherspoon. The National Tour opened at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, and runs through this Sunday.

Hap Erstein reviewed it for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Fresh is no longer an option since the movie sequel helped the perky, fashion-savvy Elle Woods character wear out her welcome and the charm probably all came from the film’s uber-appealing star, Reese Witherspoon.

It is not that the national road company is lacking. The largely young, peppy cast is up to the task of director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell’s calisthenic production numbers and bubbly Becky Gulsving is very reminiscent of Witherspoon in the central role. The problem is the flat, bland material, to which one can only say with disdain: “Omigod, you guys,” which also happens to be title of the show’s opening song.
But it's not all bad:
Still, Gulsving is a winning presence, more endearing than the show’s original Elle, whom she understudied on Broadway. Natalie Joy Johnson is a standout in the expanded role of lovelorn hairdresser Paulette...
Kevin D. Thompson reviewed for the Palm Beach Post:

On the surface, Legally Blonde: The Musical is a frothy romp, a candy-coated confection of bright costumes, high-energy dances and one pinked-out sorority sister.

Strip away the Technicolor trappings, however, and the show is, like, OMG, the ultimate girl power story that says it's OK to be who you are and to follow your dreams even if you're following them in pink Manolos while toting a Chihuahua in your designer purse.

Maybe it's a generational thing.

Elle Woods (Becky Gulsvig) is a living, breathing Malibu Barbie who's bubblier than 10 bottles of Moet.

Look for a hunky delivery guy who almost steals the show. Jerry Mitchell's splendid choreography (he's also the show's director) comes to life during such bouncy numbers as Whipped Into Shape and Bend and Snap.

Jan Sjostrom reviewed it for the Palm Beach Daily News:

Legally Blonde isn't supposed to be deep. It's supposed to be savvy, witty and visually delightful.

The production visiting the Kravis Center doesn't come close to the verve of the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, but it does retain a glimmer of its sparkle.

Becky Gulsvig as Elle Woods... has a pleasant musical-theater voice and she's easy on the eyes, particularly in the fetching ensembles designed by Gregg Barnes.

Unfortunately, the shapeless score, composed by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and Heather Hach's dumbed-down book doesn't give her much to work with.

Despite its many shortcomings, Legally Blonde... is likely to be popular with audiences. It retains just enough of the original's strengths for willing fans to fill in what's lacking.

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:

From the opening song ("Omigod You Guys"), it is clear that great energy and fun is found in the marriage of the music and lyrics to the script. The songs truly do fit the characters, and define moments of the show with the right style. The choreography and costumes are visually enjoyable, and the tunes are memorable. Becky Gulsvig is perky as Elle, though her singing voice becomes a bit forward and nasal at times, and she seemed a bit weary in the song "So Much Better." Jeff McLean sings the part of Warner to perfection (especially in "Serious"). He is needlessly the victim of some bad costuming that fails in making him the hunk he is meant to be, however, in more than one scene. Megan Lewis is a tad bland as Vivienne, aside from a few good lines. A dashing Ken Land as Professor Callahan does a fine job with "Blood In the Water." Natalie Joy Johnson as Paulette is talented but slightly inconsistent in her comic timing. D.B. Bonds is just right as Emmett. He is warm and appropriately understated.

Who would have though that such a fluffy movie could be made into such an audience pleasing musical?

Legally Blonde plays at the Kravis Center through March 22, 2009.

Sightings: Avi Hoffman

Avi Hoffman
South Florida's Avi Hoffman is featured in the March 18 issue of Newsday. It seems he's in Long Island, performing Too Jewish? at the Jeanne Rimsky Theatre in Port Washington.

Don't worry, he's got Michael Larsen with him.

Jupiter Theatre Doubles Up

BroadwayWorld reports that the Maltz Jupiter Theatre is aggressively raising funds, despite their placement in the midst of Bernie Madof's victims.
...the Maltz Jupiter Theatre is thrilled to announce that the Matching Fund campaign will continue beyond the "We Create Art" season finale, Evita! All tax-deductible donations given to the Theatre before the subscription renewal deadline of May 4, 2009 will be doubled by Milton and Tamar Maltz.
Yes, that's the same Maltz family the theater is named for. Evita runs through April 5th.

The Scene For March 20, 2009

http://www2.scholastic.com/content/collateral_resources/multimedia/c/clipart_apr07_umbrella.gifThe rains have finally come to South Florida; but that's OK, all the current offerings on The Scene are indoors! Brave the storms and support the arts; with this week's offerings, you'll be glad you did.

And starting today, The Scene will appear at NOON on Thursdays, so you can plan your weekend over lunch.

Just a reminder: Clicking on a highlighted show title leads you to the review summaries for that show.


opens at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre; it runs through April 5th. Read about this production in the Palm Beach Post.

what's playing

Les Miserables plays at Actors' Playhouse through April 5th, 2009. So far, the critics are raving about this one.

Caldwell Theater presents Dangerous, the world premier of Michael McKeever's latest play, through March 29th.

Sugar runs through March 29th at the Broward Stage Door Theatre.

The Weir plays at Palm Beach Drama Works through April 5th, 2009.

The Glass Menagerie, the Tennessee Williams masterpiece of American drama, plays at New Theatre in Coral Gables through March 29, 2009

passing through...

Legally Blonde plays at the Kravis Center through March 22, 2009.

Dame Edna, My First Last Tour
plays at Parker Playhouse through March 28, 2009.

A Jew Grows in Brooklyn has been wandering around South Florida for several months, and settles West Palm Beach's Cuillo Center for the next 7 weeks. It runs through April 5, 2009.

last chance to see...

SISTERS! A Celebration of the Human Spirit plays at the African American Performing Arts Community Theater through March 22nd.

A Dead Man's Cell Phoneplays at Mosaic Theatre through March 22, 2009. Tickets are going fast for this one: call now!

DEFIANCE plays at GableStage through March 22nd. The only show currently running in South Florida that's been reviewed in Variety.

for kids

Alice in Wonderland plays at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables through April 4.

Cinderella plays at Sol Children's Theatre Troup through March 29.

Broadway Kids' Studio on the Riverfront

Great music and you will be floored by the talent! Students will be performing hits from Journey, Taylor Swift, Blondie, & More!

Come by, bring your friends and have some drinks by the water while enjoying some great entertainment!

Where: Las Olas Riverfront - first floor Gazebo by the water

Time: 2:00 - 5:00 pm

More info call Michelle at 954-770-4506


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Parker Playhouse: Dame Edna's First Last Tour (3 reviews)

Dame Edna opened her "first Last Tour" at Fort Lauderdale's venerable Parker Playhouse on March 10, 2009.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:

Ever notice how, just when the world seems ever-closer to the precipice of doom, an inimitable megastar turns up to offer relief to the comedy-starved masses?


Truth be told (truth being a precious and rare commodity in any encounter with Dame Edna), My First Last Tour is different from The Royal Tour and A Night with Dame Edna, the previous caring-and-sharing shows she brought to South Florida.


My First Last Tour is a leaner show for meaner times. Yet it is no less hilarious, thanks to the combination of well-honed material and improvisational skills that Barry Humphries, the rapier-witted actor who plays Dame Edna, brings to his most famous role.

The Sun-Sentinel inflicts another review strewn with fragmented-sentence on its readers, courtesy of fashion editor Rod Stafford Hagwood:
To say that Dame Edna: My First Last Tour playing at Parker Playhouse is old-fashioned sounds like a slight I must admit.

But I mean it in the best of ways possums, the very best.
John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway; I almost didn't include it because, well, frankly it's the most poorly written review I've read in 2009. Eight paragraphs, 7 of which are either biographical or historical. The only paragraph that actually deals with the show barely hints at quality; it's a recitation of events. Booooooorrring. I get no sense of the show at all from this review.

But for whatever it's worth, here's his review in a nutshell:
Audience members are brought up on stage in an impromptu talk show for further homage and humiliation from the sharp wit of Dame Edna. There are mentions of pop icons such as Brittany Spears, and of course ex-President George Bush, but most of the show is based on personalized, comedic interaction with the audience. There must be a pianist to help with the songs of course, and her daughter Valmai to provide cover for a costume change. But what can be said of two hours of shear fun except "Don't Miss It"?
I'm pretty sure the show is more enjoyable than this review. Instruction manuals are more enjoyable than this review.Dame Edna's First Last Tour plays at the Parker Playhouse through March 22, 2009.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Promethean Theatre Announces Schedule Change

Due to unforeseen circumstances The Promethean Theatre has changed their May production to Speed the Plow by David Mamet. It will be Directed by Carbonell Nominated Director Margaret M. Ledford. This replaces their previously scheduled production of Kimberly Akimbo, by David Abaire.

News from around the South Florida Theatre Scene

The Palm Beach Daily News reports that several Palm Beach arts groups are scrambling. Palm Beach is home to quite a large number of Bernie Madoff's victims, so they are particularly hard hit.
The Kravis cut several hundred thousand dollars out of its $23 million operating budget. It hasn't laid off any full-time staff, but it has either canceled, postponed or trimmed the number of performances for more than 30 shows, largely because of low ticket sales.

(Florida Stage) slashed its expenses from last year's $4.1 million to $3.4 million this season. It plans to accumulate a $200,000 surplus as a buffer against future revenue fluctuations, Managing Director Nancy Barnett said.

The (Palm Beach Opera) saved money by hiring more younger singers, eliminating two highly paid positions slated to be phased out, renegotiating with vendors, consolidating its storage space and other measures.

(Ballet Florida) hoped to solve its immediate problems by selling its building to the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency for $2.5 million, erasing its bills and $1.5 million mortgage, with $600,000 to spare. But the deal fell through March 9 when the city declined to pay Worth Realty a $185,000 commission fee the realty firm claims it is owed because the ballet didn't act on a $3.75 million offer and then used the offer to bargain with the city.
Jan Sjostrom of the Palm Beach Daily News wrote a little background piece on Becky Gulsvig, the star of the national tour of Legally Blonde, which opens next week at the Kravis Center.
"I wouldn't say I'm nothing like Elle," Gulsvig said during a recent tour stop in Memphis. "I'm half like her. I'm not a high-heels, pretty-in-pink, super-girlie. But we have the same spirit. We follow our dreams, and we're true to ourselves."
But surprisingly, it's Rod Stafford Hagwood of the Sun-Sentinel who delivers the goods on the girl playing Elle Woods;
"I do think Elle is a role model for every little girl," (Becky Gulsvig) said. "Think about it: She tells you to follow your dream and to not give up; not listen to other people who tell you that you can't do something. And she stays true to herself. It makes is easy to play because that's how I think too."
I'll be the first to admit that I've been harsh on Hagwood, but he really does a great job on this interview with Beck Gulsvig.

Meanwhile, Kevin D. Thompson of the Palm Beach Post speaks with Marc Robin, the director of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre's upcoming production of Evita.
"It's far more intimate," Robin says. "We're really concentrating on making sure the story is really the first thing the audience will notice. Often times Evita is a big spectacle. We're trying to get to the core of the story so people can connect to it."
Christine Dolen ponders how theatres reach out to their audience in her blog, The Drama Queen.
Most theater has a target audience, broad as that group may be. Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables is doing its terrific current production of Les Misérables for folks who love Broadway megamusicals. The Gables' intimate New Theatre is presenting an admirable revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie for fans of great American stage classics.
Dolen is describing the phenomenom I call "niche theater," where theaters abandon the attempt to be all things to all people and instead find a niche in the community that they can master.

Dolen wrote about just such a company in her blog posting Bodies At Play:
Vanessa Garcia doesn't just put on plays. Through her group The Krane, she dreams up events: a play in a shoe store, for instance
Miami Artzine gives us peek behind the scenes with an interview with sound designer Marty Mets.
What are the hallmarks of good sound?
You shouldn't notice it. You should forget that you are watching a play, or movie, or listening to a CD, and become totally immersed in the experience. If someone walks out onstage and they sound like they're in a tin can, that subtracts from the total production. If someone is speaking from behind a door you don't want his mic up as loud as the person on the other side. I always aim for realism. Good sound should not be noticed per se, but should subconsciously add to and heighten the total experience.
He's up for a Carbonell for his work on 4.48 Psychosis. It's a tough field this year; Matt Corey does excellent work, but Steve Shapiro's design for The Chairs was outstanding.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Actors' Playhouse: Les Miserable [3 reviews]

   David Michael Felty, left, is the ex-con, Trent Blanton the police inspector nipping at his heels in <em>Les Miserables</em>. Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre opened its production of Les Miserables; on March 6, 2009.

David Arisco directs a cast that includes David Michael Felty, Trent Blanton, Gwen Hollander, Margot Moreland, Colleen Amaya, Javier Ignacio, Christopher Hudson Myers, Melissa Minyard, and Gary Marachek. Eric Alsford is musical director, Colleen Grady- costume designer (with help from Ellis Tillman), Sean McClelland - set designer, Patrick Tennant- lighting designer, and sound design by Alex Herrin.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald, and to say she liked it would be an understatement:
The Les Miz that artistic director David Arisco and his team have delivered to the Coral Gables theater's stage is one of the finest productions in the company's 21-year history. The finest, if operatic megamusicals spell great theater to you.

Set designer Sean McClelland, for example, had to figure out how to supply the musical's swiftly changing scenery and myriad locations without using the show's trademark turntable -- and he did.... Lighting designer Patrick Tennent, sound designer Alexander Herrin and costume designer Colleen Grady (with an assist from Ellis Tillman) artfully match McClelland's achievement.

The bedrock strength of this Les Miz, however, flows from Arisco's casting. The production is anchored by David Michael Felty as Valjean, the transformed former convict, and Trent Blanton as Inspector Javert, Valjean's unyielding pursuer. Both have a deep understanding of their roles... both have superb voices, and both...will make an emotional observer weep.

A radiant Melissa Minyard finds all of the tragic beauty in the doomed Fantine. Gwen Hollander is heartbreaking as the plucky Eponine, the young woman who sacrifices everything for the man who loves another. Christopher Hudson Myers and the soubrette-like Nikka Wahl have the usual challenge of making Marius and Cosette's instant devotion seem credible, but they turn A Heart Full of Love (sung with Hollander's aching Eponine) into a thing of shimmering beauty.

To echo the audience's repeated shouts: Bravo!
Mary Damiano reviewed it for Miami Artzine: anyone who might have thought Christine Dolen was gushing hasn't read Damiano's review yet; be sure to click through and read the whole thing, I just couldn't decide what to snip for this summary.
Lavish. Sumptuous. Breathtaking.

Even these adjectives seem hardly able to describe Actors’ Playhouse production of mega musical Les Miserables.


Bravo to director David Arisco for assembling a stunning cast and design team to bring Les Miserables to life. His mix of local actors and those who have performed in Les Miserables on Broadway and on tours and local talent, combined with a team of innovative designers, makes for one mind-boggling collection of talent.


Les Miserables is the theatre event of the season. Don’t miss it.

Patrick Oliver Jones, Gwen Hollander, Chritopher Hudson Myers, David Michael Felty, Nikka Wahl, Trent Blanton, Gary Marachek and Margot Moreland, part of the cast of Les Miserables

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
This Actors' Playhouse production of Les Misérables surpasses expectations. Magnificently sung and staged, the show is South Florida theatre at its best. It is wonderfully carried by David Michael Felty as Jean Valjean. Combined with admirable singing and acting talent, he embodies the role with passion and heart. "Bring Him Home" is rarely so beautifully sung. He is well paired with Trent Blanton as Valjean's adversary Javert. Blanton's "Soliloquy" stands as one of the show's best moments.
Micah 24601 is a local poli sci student, and guess what musical is apparent his favorite?
Well, you can hear them sing—gloriously—at the Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables. Their production of Les Miserables is an inspiring triumph. All future regional productions in Florida, beware: the bar has been set, and it has been set high. Judging by the conversation around me in the men’s restroom at intermission, I am not the only one who thinks so, either.
There's more, including photos of the cast. In one of his other posts, he has a video clip of David Felty singing one of the songs from the show at a karaoke night or something.

Les Miserable plays at Actors' Playhouse through April 5th, 2009.