Friday, February 27, 2009

The Talk About Town

There's quite a number of theatre-related stories in the local press this weekend, in addition to the various reviews.

Rachel JonesThe Miami Herald has blurbs about Dead Man's Cell Phone and The Glass Menagerie. And on top of that, Christine Dolen blogs about a casting opportunity for Billy Elliot the Musical, one of Broadway's hottest properties. Yes, they are holding auditions for Young Billy in Orlando, and Christine tells you everything about it.

Christine also plugs a new album from a South Florida veteran, Rachel Bay Jones. Rachel has performed at every major theatre in South Florida (Most recently in Urinetown at Actors' Playhouse), following in the footsteps of her parents, themselves veteran actors: Dennis and Mona Jones. Rachel has played Broadway (Meet me in St. Louis, The Boys from Syracuse), and toured extensively on top of appearances in regional theatres around the country.

And now she's added recording star to her resumé; she's recorded her favorite songs from musical theatre and given them a folk twist on ShowFolk. You can click through and hear samples of the tunes: and it's worth doing so.

David Rudd and Marta Reiman in Dangerous Mary Damiano at Miami Artzine interviewed playwright Michael McKeever about Dangerous and its production at the Caldwell Theatre. It's a little edgier than recent fare at the venerable Caldwell, but Caldwell cut its eyeteeth on edgy plays in its youth.

Hap Erstein at Palm Beach ArtsPaper also has a preview piece on Michael McKeever's racy new play, Dangerous, opening this weekend at the Caldwell. Here we learn that not only is there nudity in the play, McKeever is insisting on it. But it's not for shock value or titillation; nothing makes you more vulnerable than nakedness, and the intent is to literally strip away any sense of armor the characters might have. And that's not new ground for the Caldwell. is PBS Channel 2's video blog. Among their offerings is an interview with the cast of Caldwell Theatre's production of Michael McKeever's Dangerous.

It includes some footage of the performance, and part 2 is with Michael McKeever and director Clive Cholerton.

The audio isn't great, but we don't often get to see the inner workings of the play and the performance like this.

Dangerous is also included in the ArtsPaper's Weekend Arts Picks, along with Lake Worth Playhouse's production of Arthur Millers The Crucible.

The South Florida Times followed April Yvette Thompson on an Outreach visit for Liberty City.
“At the end of the day I’d go get on the bus, and I would watch my friends drive by in their very expensive cars, and it was humiliating. And then I’d get off the bus and all the kids at Allapattah would be waiting to beat me up because I talked like a little white girl,” Thompson told the group.
The ever-sloppy and incompetently edited Sun-Sentinel website managed to hide Bill Hirschman's blurb about Liberty City from us for an entire week, but we found it while the show's still playing. HA! We FOILED you, Sun-Sentinel! We found a relevant news story despite your best efforts!

Disapointingly, the Sentinel is ripping off its readers by re-treading a Christine Dolen review previously published in the Herald instead of sending out Bill Hirschman. Guys, you have to do your own reviews: using someone else's is completely unacceptable, and it's costing you readers. Theatre isn't like film or TV: it's only here, and it's only now, and the only way we can determine whether it's worth the bother is by reading all the different reviews and then making a choice. By failing to live up to its journalistic responsibility, the Sun-Sentinel is failing its community.

The Scene for February 27, 2009

We're already at the end of February; hard to believe, isn't it? The year is flying by, and the shows seem to be racing past. But do take some time out to catch one; there's a lot of good stuff playing this week.

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


A Dead Man's Cell Phone opens this weekend at Mosaic Theatre. Christine Dolen tells us it's a rare opportunity to see a play by one of the most celebrated playwrights in the United States.

The Glass Menagerie, the Tennessee Williams masterpiece of American drama, opens at New Theatre in Coral Gables. Beau Higgins has a promo piece that includes a cast list and the design team.

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

what's playing

Sol Theatre Project is running the Eric Bogosian drama Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll through March 7th.

Florida Stage is running the world premier of The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock through March 8, 2009.

Rising Action Theatre running two shows concurrently through March 15th: Say You Love Satan plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30, with a 7pm show on Sundays, and Simply Barbra plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 9:30pm, with a 3pm matinee on Sundays.

DEFIANCE plays at GableStage through March 22nd.

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.

passing through...

The National Tour of A Chorus Line plays at the Broward Center through March 1. It's a singular sensation that's garnered good reviews. This is a definitive production, and well worth seeing.

Murdered by the Mob is taking reservations for dinner in the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room. the interactive comedy whodunit opens tonight and runs through March 1. If you're a Sopranos fan, or one of those thousands of people playing Mob Wars on Facebook or MySpace, this might be the show for you.

Liberty City opened Wednesday, February 18 at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and runs through March 1, 2009. It's based on actual events that happened not far from the stage it's playing on, as told by the person who lived through it - the star of the show.

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...

Playhouse Creatures finishes its run at the Women's Theater Project this Sunday, March 1.

The M Ensemble's production of A Woman Called Truth winds up on March 1.

for kids

The Steadfast Tin Soldier returns to the Playground Theatre, and plays through March 8, 2009

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

Cinderella plays Saturday at the Miramar Cultural Center.

The Velveteen Rabbit plays Saturday at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre

Cuillo Center: A Jew Grows in Brooklyn [1 review]

Jake Ehrenreich's one-man show 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.

Kevin D. Thompson reviews for the Palm Beach Post:

The last time the show was here in 2008, it sold out for 17 consecutive weeks.

It's easy to understand why.

For starters, Ehrenreich is a wonderful storyteller. He talks in a relaxed, easygoing manner, almost like a kindly grandfather. It also helps that the first-generation immigrant story Ehrenreich is telling about his Holocaust survivor parents and his desire to be considered an "all-American regular inner-city kid" growing up is engaging, poignant and, at times, hilarious.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sol Theatre: Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll (3 reviews)

Sol Theatre Project is running the Eric Bogosian drama Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll through March 7th.

Christine Dolen
weighs in with her review for the Miami Herald:
Having previously staged Bogosian's solo Drinking in America with multiple actors, (Robert) Hooker takes that approach again with Sex, Drugs -- this time, with mixed results.

...Hooker is giving three actors the chance to do mini solo shows rather than having one powerhouse performer carry the evening.

This decision doesn't enhance or further illuminate the material. It merely points up the disparities among the performances: the charged-up Bruno's knack for finding both the humor and callousness in the men he plays, Gibbons' ease (at times hampered by near-inaudibility) with his little group of aging hipsters, Holmes' trio of rambling nuts.
Bill Hirschman reviewed it for the Sun-Sentinel. And he enjoyed the show at the sometimes-inconsistent theatre:
Your living room is larger than their stage. They have little money. Occasionally, they get mired in pretentious messes. But at least once a year, the folks at Sol Theatre Project produce a work of thought-provoking art that simply should not be missed by people who love great theater.

Director Robert Hooker has a preternatural feel for pacing these curdling slices of life and digging into the marrow of the mildewed edges of modern society. He deftly channels Bogosian's unending torrent of words flowing from each character like a flash flood.

Jeff Holmes is shattering... Todd Bruno disappears inside a dim slacker who relates the most drug-addled bachelor party of all time... and somebody explain why theaters don't slug it out to hire Jim Gibbons 12 months a year?
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward-Palm Beach New Times.
...the title is the best single-phrase description of Sol's contribution to South Florida high culture. Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are three things that SoFla theater desperately needs more of and that most theaters simply cannot credibly deliver. But they come naturally to Sol.

It was written by Eric Bogosian, a writer with a real gift for dialect and no sense of when to shut up. He used to perform SDR&R as a one-man show, but here it's filled out with three stalwart of the Sol — Jeff Holmes, Jim Gibbons, and Todd Bruno — who don't do anything to curb Bogosian's excesses.

Bogosian might bludgeon you with a hammer; Homes, Gibbons, and Bruno will drop an Acme anvil on your head.
Sadly, this is just about the Sol Theatre Project's last venture; Robert Hooker is looking to sell the theatre because he's pursuing a tenured teaching position out of state.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Broward Center A Chorus Line (2 Reviews)

  Revival of <em>A Chorus Line.</em> The National Tour of A Chorus Line opened at the Broward Center on Tuesday, February 17, and will play through March 1.

John LaRiviere reviewed the show for Talkin' Broadway: his writing style is exceedingly dry, but he covers the basics:
The choreographic style of Michael Bennett remains intact in this production, as restaged by original cast member Baayork Lee.

The ensemble singing as a whole is good, though a little light on the tenor notes, and Anthony Wayne as Richie seems to have a hard time blending vocally with the ensemble. This actually applies to his dancing as well. On the night attended, in the scene where Zach is yelling at Cassie "Don't pop the hip," Mr. Wayne was two dancers away from her in the line inexplicably pulling focus by over-extending his hips forward and popping his hip.
John also as some specific notes on the production's Cassie:
Robyn Hurder as Cassie dances the part well and is quite good in the confrontation scene when Zach pulls her out of line. Make no mistake, this is a difficult role that is normally played by the strongest female dancer in the cast. But Cassie needs to be a good actress too.
I gotta say, I'm not all that impressed with LaRiviere as a reviewer: I feel like I'm reading someone's homework assignments. Maybe he'll improve over time.

Christine Dolen
reviewed it for the Miami Herald:
Even if you aren't familiar with the Pulitzer Prize-winning show's track record, watching A Chorus Line will remind you of the dramatic power a great musical can have. The longest-running American musical stuck around Broadway for all those years for a simple reason: It's great.
Sure, it's a great show; but Christine enjoyed this production in particular. She singles out a "singular sensation" for specific praise:
The woman apart is, as always, Cassie (Robyn Hurder)...Hers is the most famous dance number in this enduring show, and though the standards set by the original cast members are difficult (maybe impossible) to top, Hurder earns her time in the spotlight.
On a related note, Steve Rothaus of the Herald spoke with ACL composer Marvin Hamlisch.
''I was at the pinnacle and I got a call from (director Michael Bennett) to go back to New York,'' Hamlisch said. "None of us had any idea if it would be a hit or a miss.''
The National Tour of A Chorus Line plays at the Broward Center through March 1.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Arsht Center: Liberty City (1 review)

Miami native April Yvette Thompson  in her solo show, Liberty City  Photo: Jill JonesLiberty City, by Jessica Blank, is a one-woman show starring April Yvette Thompson. It's playing at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through March 1.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
...because of the artistry of the woman telling that story, one of the finest theater experiences to hit Miami in this or any season becomes a journey that makes you laugh -- a lot -- even as it breaks your heart.

...what Thompson pulls off in Liberty City is a grand, not-to-be-missed experience. As our time-traveling guide from a vastly changed Miami into a past filled with both ideals and shattered dreams, she thoroughly engages us. And with uncommon clarity, her Miami story demonstrates yet again how the political and the personal are inextricably intertwined.

related material:

The Drama Queen gives us some background, Beau Higgins at BroadwayWorld has the skinny, but Miami Artzine has an interview.

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: Beehive [3 reviews]

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre presents Beehive, a revue of 60's girl bands, through February 22.

Kevin D. Thompson has the first review in the Palm Beach Post.

The six brave stars of Beehive, the toe-tapping, feel-good musical revue playing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, do their best to make you believe you're watching a booze-swilling Joplin at Woodstock or the leggy Turner crooning Proud Mary or Franklin demanding she get Respect, but unfortunately they don't quite measure up all the time.

Let's face it: No one really could.

This seems to be a recurring dilemma for "juke box" musicals, a genre that takes the catalogues of successful artists and reconstitutes them as a Broadway show; people remember the original recordings all too well

Now, that doesn't mean you won't have a great time... Beehive is still a groovy musical that should have you dancing in the aisles, or, at the very least, tapping your feet as you slide back in time to arguably the most influential period in American music history.

The show's stars - Bridget Beirne, Felicia Boswell, Lisa Estridge, Autumn Hurlbert, Noel Molinelli and Anstacia McCleskey - work harder than six James Browns on stage and have a wonderfully infectious chemistry. All of them look like they're having a blast thanks to Mark Martino's zippy direction and choreography.

Hap Erstein reviewed the show for Palm Beach ArtsPaper. And Hap says you don't have to be a Baby Boomer to appreciate the show:

As a matter of fact, too much awareness of this music and its originating performers might be a drawback at the Maltz. Much of Beehive depends on visual and aural impersonation of the likes of Diana Ross, Connie Francis, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Janis Joplin, skills that the talented six-woman cast falls short of possessing.

This is what Kevin Thompson found, too; while the performances as performances stand up, there is less success when they try to emulate iconic rock stars.

The penultimate spot goes to the whiskey-soaked sounds of Joplin, though Bridget Beirne provides a wan replica of the tiny Texas rocker. Lisa Estridge earns a bit more respect for her Aretha and Stacy McCleskey rolls on the river with Turner, but floats into caricature.

Director-choreographer Mark Martino (who elevated last season’s The Boy Friend) knows his ’60s dances, but frantic frugs, watusis and swims are a weak anchor to an evening. Projection designer David Esler supplies some eye-catching effects and costumer Jose M. Rivera has fun winking at the fashions of the era.

The johnny-come-lately theatre blog, Five Minutes to Curtain, gets their review in just under the wire:

When people think of 60’s musicals nowadays, Hairspray is the first that comes to mind, but now, thanks to the Maltz Theatre in Jupiter, FL, Beehive is the word.

The one act that always comes to mind about strong women was Tina Turner and Stacy, played by Anastacia McCleskey did an amazing job portraying such a powerful woman. I can easily see why this scene was Artistic Director, Andrew Kato’s favorite scene.
Really? I mean, I don't doubt that, but it would be nice to know how the nameless reviewer discovered that.

Despite some transient sound issue, 5mins gave kudos to the design team:
Special recognition belong to Tom Frey for his musical directing, Dan Kuchar for his amazing and beautiful scenic design and to Jose M. Rivera for his over 40 wigs and 50 costume changes that were used in this production of a very educational revue.

More reviews will be added to this posting as they become available. Please, feel free to add your comments below.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Weir promo pieces

Hap Erstein goes one-on-one with veteran actor Frank Converse, who's starring in Connor McPheron's The Weir at Palm Beach DramaWorks.

We learn just where you've seen him before (c'mon, I know you're sitting there thinking 'I know him from something...'), and how he came to Palm Beach DramaWorks.

Kevin Thompson of the Palm Beach Post spoke with director J. Barry Lewis. We learn how he selected the play, and he talks a bit about the story.

The Scene for February 20, 2009

Another busy week on the South Florida Theatre Scene! The Carbonell nominees have been announced, a bunch of plays have been reviewed, a lot of plays are opening, and Conundrum Stages is reading Harold Pinter.

This week, I happened to pay attention to ticket prices - and was surprised to find out just how competitive ticket prices are right now. Even some of the larger halls have prices as low as some of the smaller theatres in town. And everyone has some kind of discount offer available; even if you don't see it, ask when you call.

Just a reminder that when the show's title appears as a hyperlink, clicking on it leads to all the reviews and articles I've found about that show. Clicking on the theater takes you to their website to find out dates, times, and how to buy tickets.


You can attend an opening night of a play every evening this weekend! I can't remember the last time that happened.

SISTERS! opens Thursday at the African American Performing Arts Community Theater.

The Weir opens Friday at Palm Beach Drama Works. There's a great article about this production at, and the Drama Queen speaks up, too.

DEFIANCE opens Saturday at GableStage. BroadwayWorld tells you more

Dangerous, the world premier of Michael McKeever's latest play, opens Sunday at Caldwell Theater. The Drama Queen has some background on this steamy new drama, and so does BroadwayWorld.

what's playing

Playhouse Creatures is playing at theWomen's Theater Project through March 1.

The M Ensemble is running A Woman Called Truth through March 1, 2009.

Sol Theatre Project is running the Eric Bogosian drama Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll through March 7th.

Florida Stage is running the world premier of The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock through March 8, 2009.

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

passing through...

A touring production of Footloose tears up the dance floor at the Parker Playhouse, Friday February 20 - Sunday February 22nd.

The National Tour of A Chorus Line plays at the Broward Center through March 1.

Murdered by the Mob is taking reservations for dinner in the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room. the interactive comedy whodunit opens tonight and runs through March 1. If you're a Sopranos fan, or one of those thousands of people playing Mob Wars on Facebook or MySpace, this might be the show for you.

Liberty City opened Wednesday, February 18 at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and runs through March 1. The Drama Queen gives us some background, Beau Higgins at BroadwayWorld has the skinny, but Miami Artzine has an interview.

last chance to see...

Actors' Repertory Company presents it production of Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts though February 22nd. It's only playing three days a week, so check the website before going.

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre presents Beehive, a revue of 60's girl bands, through February 22.
There are two reviews out.

for kids

, the Tim Rice-Elton John musical, is playing at Miami Children's Theater through February 20.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier returns to the Playground Theatre, and plays through March 8, 2009

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

We didn't see THIS one coming!

According to Stage Directions, The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts has paid off a $14 million dollar loan seven years early. This means that the Arsht Center has no outstanding bank loans.

I'm not sure what this means for the debt incurred by building the center; or its earlier losses: the City and County had to cover losses incurred during its first year of operation.

But no matter how you slice it, it's good news for Miami and its performing arts center.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Broward StageDoor: Sugar (1 review)

Sugar runs through March 29th at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. It's based on the movie Some Like It Hot, which was a tremendously successful movie starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe.

Bill Hirschman reviewed it for the Sun-Sentinel;
The comic imagination and energy of director/star Dan Kelley are the primary assets in a show that has undeniably entertaining set pieces but never coalesces into a satisfying evening.

There are some promising elements at Stage Door: Kelley and Chizever have the essential charisma and the woebegone discomfort dressing up as women... Coyle is appropriately winsome if not as magnetic or touching as the prototype Marilyn Monroe; Livesey turns in another of his patented demented elf characterizations, and choreographer Chrissi Ardito's tap dancing substituting for machine gun fire is solid.

But being in the show makes it hard for Kelley the director to keep the evening flowing...

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Lesson from Joe Queenan.

Via ArtsJournal;
John Queenan of The Guardian has a suggestion to theatre-lovers about how to keep our theatres from going under; buy a ticket.

The God's honest truth is that I don't even like the theatre that much. I'd rather hear music. But when you can see plays of this quality featuring actors of this pedigree, you'd have to be a fool or a skinflint to pass up the opportunity. I am neither. What I am is a fiscal patriot. I see my countrymen clasping their wallets shut and hunkering down, waiting for the four horsemen of the apocalypse to canter in. And I see cowardice where there should be courage, timidity where there should be brass. It is simply not the American way to slam on the brakes, to turn down a screaming bargain, to keep one's cash in one's pockets.

And he's right, it's really that simple. I know some of us figure that we can see several movies for the cost of one theatre ticket; but that movie's coming out on DVD, and the play is only here for a few days.

Here's an idea: look at the theatres who have Carbonell nominations, then check The Scene to see what they've got playing now, and GO SEE IT. The more nominations, the more likely you are to find an excellent production, but honestly, any of them will have something worth seeing.

Carbonell Award Nominations Announced - UPDATED

Yes, the nominations for the 33rd Annual Carbonell Awards have been announced. You can check them out on the brand-spanking-new Carbonell Awards Website. They break them down by show, by company, and by category.

Hap Erstein already was first out in the Palm Beach ArtsPaper ;
While most of the country puzzles over the upcoming Academy Awards, the local theater community is busy analyzing the nominations for the Carbonell Awards...

... let the grousing begin anew!
Christine Dolen of the Miami Herald was a close second, first as a straight news story;
Some of the riskiest South Florida theater experiences of 2008 brought recognition to the companies that provided them as nominations for the 33rd annual Carbonell Awards were announced Monday.
And then with a blog entry:
So the nominations for the 33rd annual Carbonell Awards have gone public, and though Monday is dark and a holiday, I can vividly picture the joy and rage flowing through South Florida's theater world.
The Palm Beach Post and the Sun-Sentinel, typically, missed this easy local-interest story; although the slackers at the Sentinel re-printed Christine Dolen's article. Screw that, read it in the Herald. I won't even link to the Sentinel's retread.

Jan Sjostrom at the Palm Beach Daily News got the story out; kinda sad that the Shiny Sheet can scoop the Post, but they did and there you have it.
Palm Beach Dramaworks leads the pack as the most-nominated theater with 15 nominations for the 33rd annual Carbonell Awards.
Theatre Row has the story, too:
Let the kevetching looks like the carbonell folks heard the screams of the South Florida community and answard back with a yelp of their own. For better or for worse here they are are, your 2009 Carbonell nomenies.
Um, guys? The correct spellings are; 'kvetching,' Carbonell,' answered,' and 'nominees.' (really, I did think about letting it pass without comment, but, c'mon, this is dire.)

**********update: they have corrected their spelling.************

Mary Damiano has her article up on Miami ArtZine.

Even Playbill Online got the word out, with a story by Kenneth Jones. Nothing worth quoting, but it's there, as was Brian Scott Lipton's story in Theatre Mania.

The nominated theatres are burning up the internet with Facebook and MySpace messages, but that's what it's for. 2008 saw a great deal of truly first-rate theatre in South Florida, and every single nomination was truly earned.

It should be noted that this year's awards were never in doubt; it was next year's awards that were at issue a few months ago. The ceremony has been scheduled to take place at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on April 6th, 2009, since last year.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Carbonell Website Returns.

The official website of the Carbonell Awards went down shortly after Jack Zink, the site's administrator, passed away. After months of limbo, someone has finally got a new version of the website up.

The new site is based on a weblog template, much like the Theatre Scene. As of this writing, there is no content on the site, but a good structure has been setup.

Welcome back!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Scene For February 13, 2009

The last week has flown by: thank god I've simplified The Scene! Still haven't recieved much feedback on the change; speak up. I'll listen.

In the meantime, here's what's happening this week on the Theatre Scene:


Sugar opens Friday at the Broward Stage Door Theatre

what's playing

Florida Stage is running the world premier of The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock through March 8, 2009. It's received FIVE reviews to date.

Actors' Repertory Company presents it production of Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts though February 22nd. It's only playing three days a week, so check the website before going.

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre presents Beehive, a revue of 60's girl bands, through February 22.
There are two reviews out.

Playhouse Creatures is playing at the Women's Theater Project through March 1. There are three reviews available.

The M Ensemble is running A Woman Called Truth through March 1, 2009. There are two reviews out.

passing through

Chazz Palminteri's one-man version of A Bronx Tale plays at Parker Playhouse through Sunday, February 15. There are two reviews out, and they are both GLOWING.

Kravis Center presents Renée Taylor & Joe Bologna in If You Ever Leave Me...I'm Going With You! Tonight, Thursday February 12 only!

last chance to see..

The Broward Stage Door Theatre closes Showtune on February 15th.

The Valerie Harper vehicle Looped winds up its run at the Cuillo Center in West Palm Beach on February 15.

Kissing runs at New Theatre in Coral Gables through February 15, 2009.

for kids

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

Aida, the Tim Rice-Elton John musical, is playing at Miami Children's Theater through February 20.

Florida Stage: The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock 5 REVIEWS!

Florida Stage opened the world premier of The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock on January 31. It will run through March 8th. See the website about tickets and times.

This article will be updated as new articles and reviews about the show are published.


Jan Sjolstrom with the Palm Beach Daily News finally got in to see it. And she didn't enjoy it all that much:
Heavy-handed performances, a confusing chronology and director Cathey Sawyer's literal interpretation hobble the production.
And Jan didn't have the same reaction to Donte Bonner that Christine and Hap had;
Donte Bonnér, as Laurel's lover, the Bridegroom, doesn't capture the cadence and pacing of a true storyteller, which is a serious flaw in a play so dependent on stories.
But she did like the technical aspects of the show:
Perhaps the best part of this production are Suzanne Jones' inspired lighting and Matt Kelly's brilliant sound design, a connective tissue of a capella mountain music that seems to issue from the characters' hearts.
Christine Dolen's review in the Miami Herald describes Florida Stage's production as "impeccable" - she likes the script:
Catherine Trieschmann's The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock celebrates the transportive, seductive power of storytelling even as the playwright spins her own tale of life in the North Carolina mountains at the ragged end of the Civil War.
And she likes the production:
A good deal of the credit for making this first Bridegroom production engaging also goes to director Cathey Crowell Sawyer, the theater's detail-focused design team, and a cast that makes thick mountain accents and colloquial speech patterns sound like a kind of folk music.
Hap Erstein's review also published on Monday, in the Palm Beach ArtsPaper . And it seems he wasn't quite as taken with it as Christine: a 21st-century audience, these characters come off as painfully primitive and two-dimensional...
And the "colloquial speech patterns" that Dolen described as " a kind of folk music," Hap found...hokey.
Nor is that impression mitigated by their cornpone dialogue... which director Cathey Crowell Sawyer makes worse by having her actors deliver them in capital letters
The only thing these two reviewers agree on is the performance by Donte Bonner:

The interplay between Cato and Bonner is lovely to behold. Perhaps if Laurel were sighted, falling for a wandering black soldier would have been more complicated. But because of their circumstances, the Bridegroom helps Laurel ''see'' by painting pictures with words, 'til she becomes a smitten kid who can't wait for the next story.
Only two of the characters rise above the clunky backwoods speech patterns. The title character (played by a wily, verbally nimble Donte Bonner) is a spinner of tall tales, a fast-on-his-feet inventor of vivid imagery and folk poetry, usually for the sake of seducing the gullible Laurel.
Bill Hirschman covered the show for the Sun-Sentinel: it's good to seem them actually publishing their own news.
The world premiere of Catherine Trieschmann's "folk ballad" at Florida Stage is an unsatisfying stew with tasty chunks that don't seem to belong in the same pot.
But Hirschman only feels that one actor rose above the material:
The only actor to claw his way out of the cardboard-cutout characters is Todd Allen Durkin as a lovesick preacher.
Hap Erstein, as you recall, stated that "only two" of the actors did that; one of them was Donte Bonner. The other is - no suprise - Tod Durkin. Here's Hap's take on Durkin's performance:
The other role that intrigues, though tangential to the main story, is Pastor Burns, an inept preacher with a crush on Maizey. The character might as well wear a sign saying “Comic Relief,” yet when Maizey rejects him, his pain is truly affecting. That, in turn, may be because of the performance of Todd Allen Durkin, surely the most versatile actor on the South Florida scene.
And you can tell that Bill really wanted to like more of this play when you read his last sentence about someone who is also an extremely versatile actor: Louralene Snedeker.
When Snedeker, a fine actress, channels Granny Clampett, the director has let her down.
Brandon K Thorp wrote up the show for the Broward Palm Beach New Times, and he's not heaping praise. Like Hap Erstein, he had problems with the thick dialect:
A botched accent is ordinarily such a small thing, but Florida Stage's production is DOA because of it.
But that's not to say it's all bad:
Still, there are signs of life all over the place in Bridegroom, and several scenes approach transcendence.
And he also singles out South Florida stage veteran Todd Durkin:
His astonishingly inept preaching has driven Blowing Rock to apostasy, so Maizey is his lone congregant. His oratory isn't helped by his deep infatuation with Hopewell. To seduce Maizey, he reads an especially pornographic passage from Solomon's Song of Songs, and when he gets to the word breast, he looks nervous enough to toss his cookies right there on the stage. Durkin's mastery of awkwardness is so complete that you can almost feel his mouth go dry as he imagines Hopewell's pert bosoms. After this scene on opening night, the audience erupted in spontaneous applause.
He mentions Louralene Snedeker and Ricky Waugh:
Ricky Waugh and Lourelene Snedeker's scenes are impressive, too. You get the sense that Waugh based his character's taciturnity on that of his onstage mum, and the constant clashing of their twin sourpuss sensibilities are remarkably lifelike.
And he also comments on the relationship between Susan Cato and Donte Bonner that impressed Christine Dolen:
She and Bonner have real chemistry, and their courtship scenes are greatly enhanced by a quirk in the script that has suave Bonner doing most of the talking. It's in his character that Bridegroom's folk-song roots are most visible and where playwright Catherine Trieschmann's writing is at its sharpest and strangest.
But Brandon echoes the conclusions of Hap Erstein and Bill Hirschman:
But goddamn, that accent. It bookends even this moment with ridiculousness so profound that it completely, irredeemably destroys what's supposed to be Bridegroom's dominant mood.

Here are the promotional articles about The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock:

See a video clip of the performance!

Florida Stage offers its own peek behind the scenes of this new show HERE.

The Palm Beach Post' s January 30 Promo Piece by Kevin Thompson:
Don't let the title fool you. While it doesn't sound like something you'd see on Lifetime (Blowing Rock is a small mountain town in North Carolina), the stage show's subject matter is definitely basic-cable juicy.
Hap Erstein interviews playwright Catherine Treischmann.
She found the kernel of her play in a museum caption that told of how the women would whisper the names of their enemies into their sons’ ears, long after the war had ended, saying things like, “Avenge me.”


Women's Theatre Project: Playhouse Creatures (3 Reviews)

Playhouse Creatures is playing at the Women's Theater Project through March 1. It's a tale of the first women to play roles in theatre; prior to the reign of Charles II, only men were permitted to work in theatre.

Genie Croft directs Dania Aguero, Kim Morgan Dean, Christine Blair, Linda Bernhard, and Jude Parry.

Christine Dolen is the first to review the play, for the Miami Herald.

Supplanting the lads in drag who had long played female roles, these early actresses became objects of fascination and desire, women whose lives offstage were at least as interesting as the characters they portrayed.

That's the way British playwright April De Angelis sees it in her 1993 script Playhouse Creatures, a piece now getting its southeastern premiere at Fort Lauderdale's Women's Theatre Project.

Before she addresses the performances, Dolen comments on the production values;
Jodi Dellaventura's bare-bones set gives them almost no environmental help. Instead, Ashley Rigg's class-revealing costumes -- near-rags for the aged Doll, a gorgeous gown for Nell once she joins the ranks of the alluring younger actresses -- underscore each woman's rank and fortunes.
Christine also felt that the script needs some work:
...De Angelis doesn't infuse her script with the kind of shorthand history that could make it even more resonant, particularly for audiences who haven't done an online cram session about theater in the time of Charles II. So until we have come to know each woman's issues and quirks, director Genie Croft's production feels as if it will never coalesce.
Overall, Dolen was positive, if brief, about the performances:
Parry's Doll is a weathered comic gem. Dean brings sass and bite to Mrs. Farley. Aguero revels in Mrs. Marshall's vengeance. And Bernhard makes Mrs. Betterton truly moving.
Bill Hirschman reviewed Playhouse Creatures for the Sun-Sentinel, and his review goes into a little more depth than Dolen's:
...(playwright) De Angelis, five solid actresses and director Genie Croft providing some of her best work make this a bawdy, funny romp interspersed with passages of pathos.
And he finds particular praise for veteran Linda Bernhard:
The revelation is Bernhard , a stalwart often trapped in mediocre roles in mediocre plays. She finally gets the role and direction she deserves. By turns laughable, self-pitying and tragic, Bernhard gives the performance of her career as the aging actress waiting in vain for her husband to allow her to play a truly great role.

Bernhard is even more riveting in a reverie when women were banned from the stage, but she dared to play Iago in male disguise to her husband's Othello.
He also praises the costuming:
...special kudos are due costumer Ashley Rigg's procession of smothering petticoats and laced up straight jackets masquerading as clothing.
Hirschman concludes:
Overall, it is an evening of deafening resonances.
Brandon K Thorp's review appeared in the February 10 edition of the Broward/Palm Beach New Times. And as always, Brandon puts it as only Brandon can:
Playhouse Creatures is an inquiry into the lives of some of these first English actresses. And because that sounds dull, I'm gonna get right to the endorsement: Playhouse Creatures is the best thing the Women's Theatre Project has done in years, and maybe ever.
A quick review; Christine liked some of the performances, but didn't feel the production really pulled together, Bill Hirschman enjoyed it, and Brandon REALLY liked it A LOT.
Some theatergoers will find the actresses' all-declamatory-all-the-time style of delivery entirely too over-the-top, but I disagree: The 1600s were a declamatory time. Just partaking in the diffuse air of giddiness in the leaky old theater is well worth the $25 ticket price.
Brandon did find, like Christine Dolen, that the script needs some judicious pruning;
...somewhere in the gathering darkness of the second act, something begins sapping the momentum of Playhouse Creatures, and at the end of it, my admiration for the players was mingled with relief that it was finally over.

But the relief had as much to do with the soul-draining intensity of the production as with De Angelis' editorial failures... In the end, it's hard to know if the actresses played by the actresses believe they're performing their own doom or living it — or if the artifice can be untangled from the tragedy at all.
More reviews will be added as they become available.


Theatre Row has a promotional article.

Christine Dolen's Critic's Pick.

M Ensemble: A Women Called Truth (2 Reviews)

The M Ensemble presents A Woman Called Truth through March 1, 2009. It's the true story of Sojourner Truth, a woman born into slavery who became both an abolitionist and an advocate for women's rights.

Jerry Maple, Jr. directs Christina Alexander, Curtis Allen, Victoria Mallow, John Wendell, Carolyn Johnson and Loye Hawkins.

Christine Dolen reviewed the show for the Miami Herald;
For Black History Month, Miami's M Ensemble is offering a crash course on the life of the heroic woman who called herself Sojourner Truth. That neither the script nor the production is well-executed theater doesn't, in the end, diminish the power of a courageous woman's inspiring story.
Dolen's strongest criticism is of the script itself:
Asher's ... focuses on Sojourner Truth's life up to the time of her famous ''Ain't I a Woman?'' speech, a fiery address she gave at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in 1851. Her life and activism continued for another 32 years, but in focusing on Belle's journey to becoming Sojourner Truth, Asher virtually ignores critical years of her history.
There are elements that Dolen enjoyed immensely;
Like other productions of A Woman Called Truth, Maple's is enriched by having the actors sing songs of the day -- spirituals, slave songs, folk songs. Alexander is also the show's biggest vocal asset, an accomplished singer whose rich voice and interpretive skill impart a moving depth to whatever she sings.
But that doesn't outweigh the production's other problems:
The other actors, however, are too often literally lost in the woods. Douglas Grinn's set consists of numerous faux trees, so the actors have few choices but to scurry around, between and behind them.

Even the often-terrific Carolyn Johnson struggles to give Asher's cardboard characters more than two dimensions.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed the show for the Miami New Times. And his experience of the play seems to be markedly different than Christine's:
The M Ensemble, the nation's oldest black theater company, produces many biopics like A Woman Called Truth, and knows how to choose the good ones.

...Truth is unpredictable, eerie, and absorbing.

Any time you get Christine Alexander, Carolyn Johnson, and Curtis Allen on a stage together, amazing things happen, no matter who is sharing the bill. Alexander's turn as Sojourner Truth is stylized, poised, seemingly young and old at the same time, and full of pain and resolve. Her singing voice is miraculous: a big, beautiful hurricane of an instrument, awe-inspiring and violent.

Carolyn Johnson looks matronly and respectable when she's offstage, but put her in front of an audience and she's deliciously perverse: Between her half-dozen characters, she cackles like a harpy; sputters and squeals like a woman in the final, fatal throes of terminal brain syphilis; dances like a bar wench; and for a few moments, summons up a heartbreaking tenderness as Sojourner's long-lost mum.

Allen's craft gives way to deeper reactions somewhere in the gut. Watch him cowering in a courtroom, when, as Sojourner's six-year-old son, he is torn between recognizing his mother and obeying his master's command to keep silent. You can see Allen's grown-up biceps and massive pecs, but they don't register at all; on every level, you respond to the sight as though he were a child. Like A Woman Called Truth itself, it is utterly remarkable — and powerful enough to render the visage's incongruities meaningless.
More reviews will be added as they become available.


Christine Dolen's Critic's Pick.

Parker Playhouse: A Bronx Tale (2 reviews)

Chazz Palmenteri wrote a play that became a movie: A Bronx Tale. The movie did fairly well, but now Palmenteri has brought the story back to its roots as a one-man play with many characters. It's running through February 15 at Fort Lauderdale's venerable Parker Playhouse.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for the Sun-Sentinel. (BTW, it's nice to see the Sun-Sentinel covering theatre again.) Right off the bat, Hirschman addresses the transition from screen to stage:
Although the story mirrors the 1993 film that he wrote and starred in, this solidly theatrical piece is much funnier and far more challenging as he slips in and out of a dozen characters. While "inspired" by real events and people in his adolescence, this gritty chronicle benefits from a dump truck of dramatic invention and good-natured exaggeration.

The real credit belongs to the performance.... his character (or characters) here is all infectious energy, charm and even a bit of vulnerability.

Famed director Jerry Zaks keeps the show barreling down the mountainside at breakneck speed most of the evening, leaving Palminteri and the audience breathless.

Christin Dolen reviewed the show for the Miami Herald:

...the wonder of his one-man, semi-autobiographical show isn't that he's so comfortable performing the story of a boy torn between his good, hard-working father and the neighborhood's glamorous mob boss. The wonder is that, after countless performances of his career-making show, Palminteri makes it all feel so fresh... is, as the cheering crowd on opening night would affirm, a perfect marriage of the storyteller and his tale.

More reviews to be added as they become available, and as always, feel free to use the comment section to tell us what you think about the play or the reviews.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Broward Center: Dixie's Tupperware Party

Dixiebowls.jpgMary Damiano attended Dixie's Tupperware Party, and wrote it up for MiamiArtzine.
Dressed in a mélange of cheery red and white prints that only a drag queen could pull off, Dixie takes the stage, and begins the most surreal Tupperware party one could ever hope to attend.

Dixie Longate is the alter ego of actor Kris Andersson, an actor who really does sell Tupperware, and is, in fact one of the top sales people in the country. He does his home parties as Dixie. And you really can buy Tupperware at the show; that's why everyone gets catalog along with a program.
That's right, the show features a drag queen, and they actually sell you Tupperware.
One must also wonder about who Andersson perceives his audience to be. On the one hand, there's the gay crowd who appreciates the sexual innuendoes and watching a terrific drag queen at work. Then there's the actual Tupperware crowd, older women who are interested in seeing an old product presented in a new way.
According to his production team, the usual demographic show consists of conservative middle class housewives. They're huge in Kansas.

Dixie's Tupperware party, plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as part of their "Off-Broadway in Broward" series. It runs through this Sunday, February 8.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Scene for February 6, 2009

Another cold snap has hit South Florida, and what better way to warm up than a night out?

No, the reviews aren't missing. They've been moved out on their own. Click on the show title to read reviews, background articles, and more.


Playhouse Creatures opens at the Women's Theater Project, and plays through March 1. Theatre Row has a blurb up about it.

The M Ensemble opens A Woman Called Truth tonight. It runs through March 1, 2009

still playing

The Broward Stage Door Theatre is presenting La Cage Aux Folles through January 25th, and Showtune through February 15th.

The Broward Stage Door Theatre is presenting Showtune through February 15th.

The Valerie Harper vehicle Looped plays at the Cuillo Center in West Palm Beach through February 15.

Kissing runs at New Theatre in Coral Gables through February 15, 2009.

Florida Stage is running the world premier of The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock through March 8, 2009.

Actors' Repertory Company presents it production of Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts though February 22nd. It's only playing three days a week, so check the website before going.

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre presents Beehive, a revue of 60's girl bands, through February 22.

passing through05-24-08_DixieLongate.jpg

Dixie's Tupperware Party is at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as part of their "Off-Broadway in Broward" series.

And yes, you really can buy Tupperware at this Tupperware Party.

last chance to see..

These shows all close on Sunday:

Bombshells! A Musical Explosion of Life, Love and Telling It All
, at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre.

Frost/Nixon, at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton.

Still Jewish After All These Years! at the New Vista Theatre.

for kids

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings at The Playground Theatre, in North Miami. It closes February 8.

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Theatre Scene; New Features, New Formats may have noticed I've been doing some tweaking at the Theatre Scene. 

As I mentioned last week, I've broken the reviews out of this weekly round-up of what's playing so that each show has its own article containing links to all the news stories and reviews about that production. Clicking on the name of the publisher of the review takes you to the original review.  I hope that you'll take advantage of this new feature to add your own thoughts to those of the reviewers, as well as to correct - or berate - me as needed.

Theatre Scene's weekly round up of plays, The Scene, will now be published every Thursday at 2:00pm, since reviews will be placed separately; I will link shows to their reviews; clicking on the show's title will take you to its own page, where you will find the recap of the reviews.  These will be created, and updated, as the reviews appear.  When I update them, I will always move them back to the top of the article queue.

The sidebar has been tweaked, too.  I've compacted the Archives.  While it was nice to see all of this month's articles, it made for a lot of scrolling to get down to the RSS feeds and Theatre bookmarks.  It now drops down a list of months, and selecting one brings up all the posts made that month.  You can also use the search window all the way at the upper left of the page to search for specific shows, reviewers, or whatever.

Quick Links filters the Theatre Scene; selecting "reviews" will show you only the articles containing links to reviews, sorted by most recent first. Selecting The Scene will show you the most recent editions of The Scene.  And so on.  If you think of something else that should be in Quick Links, let me know.

Since I brought them up., I've cleaned up the RSS feeds.  Theatre Row is back, and I've added 5 Minutes to Curtain. 5 Minutes seems to specialize in reviews, and describes itself as being "back," which means it must have been up "before."  They do have an annoying video going, so kill your speakers if you're at work.

I've put the national RSS feeds below the list of theatres; let me know if that works for you.  Or let me know if I should lose them entirely.

As always, comments are welcome.