Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sightings: Richard Jay Simon - UPDATED

Richard Jay Simon is the artistic director of Plantation's Mosaic Theatre.

TomorrowSaturday morning, he'll be on WFOR Channel Four to talk about his current project, In Darfur. The critically acclaimed production tells the story of the genocide in Sudan, and one woman's mission to tell the world her story. Tune in to see his segment between 10:00 am and 10:30 am. during the 9:30 segment of the Saturday Morning program. (Richard didn't realize that they were just taping this morning, not going live).

The play has moved Simon to join in the Darfur Fast for Life. He ate his final meal before Thursday night's performance. How long will he remain on the fast? goal is to Sunday...we shall see how long i can hold out for.... folks in Darfur don't have a choice...
This is the final weekend to see In Darfur, at Mosaic Theatre.

Best of luck with the fast, Richard. And more importantly,let's all support the efforts to relieve those suffering in Sudan.

The Scene for May 1, 2009

Tra-la! It's May!

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

still playing

The Interview is playing at the Women's Theater Project through May 17.

The Odd Couple is at Broward Stage Door. Neil Simon, you say? Why bother, you say? Ken Clement as Oscar against Dan Kelley's Felix, I say. Through June 7th.

At Home At The Zoo makes its home at Palm Beach Drama Works through June 14th. This is Edward Albee's expansion of his classic one-act play, Zoo Story.

Cagney! runs through May 3, 2009 has been extended through May 6th at Florida Stage. Four out of five critics recommend it, and the fifth says you should see it anyway.

I Ain't Yo' Uncle: The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom's Cabin runs through May 10th at The M Ensemble.

No Child runs through May 17 at GableStage.

Mauritius plays at New Theatre through May 17 - has been extended through May 24!

Something's Afoot is at the Caldwell Theater through May 17.

Rising Action Theatre runs The Andrews Brothers through May 17, 2009.

A Little Night Music plays at the Stage Door Theatre through May 24th, 2009.

passing through

The National Tour of Jersey Boys winds up its nearly sold-out run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on May 3.

last chance to see

Mad Cat Theatre Company's critically acclaimed production of BroadSword at the Light Box, closes Saturday, May 2, 2009.

In Darfur at Mosaic Theatre closes this Sunday, May 3, 2009.

for kids

Inanna and the Huluppu Tree plays at The Playground Theatre through May 22nd, 2009

The Great American Alphabet Adventure, this Friday and Saturday at the Miramar Cultural Center.

The big event for kids this weekend is the National Children's Theatre Festival, hosted by Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater in Coral Gables. The opening of Miss Nelson is Missing! will be part of the festivities; the musical based on the popular children's book will continue through May 30th.

The Arsht Center for the Arts presents its monthly Family Fest on Saturday, May 2, from 11:30am - 1:30pm.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Theatre: Mauritius (2 reviews) Theatre opened its regional premiere of Theresa Rebeck's Mauritius on April 16th, 2009.
Jackie and Mary are half-sisters whose mother's death leaves them in possession of a rare stamp collection, while battling over who owns the stamps three dealers have designs of their own. Who is friend and who is foe?
Ricky J. Martinez directs a cast that includes Michaela Cronan, Michael McKeever, Israel Garcia, Bill Schwartz, and Kim Ehly.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
If you've ever wondered what a woman playwright's version of a David Mamet script might look like, New Theatre has your answer. The small Coral Gables company has just opened a cracklingly good production of Theresa Rebeck's Mauritius, a violence-tinged dark comedy that was on Broadway only last season.
Director Ricky J. Martinez has assembled a powerhouse cast and exploited both the energy and tension in Rebeck's script.
Cronan effectively plays Jackie as both foundering and savvy, a young woman determined to secure her future even as she's grieving. McKeever makes Philip both soft-spoken and slyly resolute. Schwartz and Garcia are both spectacularly good, Schwartz as a jittery foul-mouthed menace who would doubtless kill his own mother to get his hands on the stamps, Garcia as a charmer who's instantly ready with a new line of bull when the last one flops.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
Mauritius is inscrutable: At once laughable and trenchant, the play is both absurd and sufficiently emotionally authentic to make you feel like a voyeur.

Also, it's flawed as hell. But it's still worth seeing.

Mauritius's success... probably has something to do with Ricky J. Martinez's direction and the capable cast. But these things, too, are fuzzy...

...typical of the small problems dogging Mauritius — interpretive choices that seem under-analyzed or rough around the edges. There's also Michaela Cronan's awkward unhappiness in the opening scene, in which she seems more full of teen angst and petulance than I-just-lost-my-mother-and-my-life-sucks depression. Then there's Kim Ehly's inability to determine whether she's playing an unaware solipsist or an honest villain. Only Israel Garcia and Michael McKeever remain steady throughout. Both give impassioned, inventive performances that add depth to characters that probably look a little stock on paper.

Mauritius's odd magic is an energy thing... We begin Mauritius not caring about pouty little Jackie or her overvalued bits of paper; by the end, we believe these things are very important. Is there value in a bit of paper, beyond what it can be exchanged for? The play stops just short of asking the question aloud. But we are prepped to demand an answer anyway — both by the exquisite way the dialogue heats and speeds up throughout the show, as though the actors were playing some dangerous game of dramatic chicken, and by our own preoccupation with overvalued bits of paper.

Mauritius runs through May 17th at New Theatre.

Mauritius Held Over

MAURITIUS by Theresa Rebeck reports that New Theater is extending its run of the critically acclaimed Mauritius.  Originally schedule to close May 17, it will now be playing through May 24th.

Congratulations to New Theater, and the cast and crew of Mauritius!

Stage Door: A Little Night Music (2 reviews)

Broward Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music on April 17.

Michael Leeds directs a cast that includes Shane R. Tanner, Mark A. Harmon, Miki Edelman, Kimberly Xavier Martins, and Lauren Gire. Musical Direction is by Phil Hinton.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for the Sun-Sentinel:
We are in adults' territory here, and the Broward Stage Door Theatre's surprisingly solid production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, is a treat to exhilarate the mind and thrill the emotions of audiences yearning for more than Hello, Dolly!
You can wish that Stage Door had a bigger budget to take everything up a notch. Even with a 15-member cast, a sweeping set and a room full of period costumes, there is a whiff of financial restraint. But you will not be disappointed if you invest a little of your own imagination.
The corps of strong singers is equally fine as actors including the ever-reliable Shane R. Tanner as a vain adulterous soldier, Mark A. Harmon as a lawyer in the throes of a middle-aged crisis, Miki Edelman as the sage courtesan turned wealthy doyenne, and Lauren Gire as the lusty maid with the legendary song The Miller's Son. They have mastered Sondheim's devilishly difficult melodies and tongue-twisting lyrics with targeted pitch, precise timing and crystalline enunciation.
Nowhere does this singing and acting coalesce better than in Kimberly Xavier Martins' performance of Send in the Clowns. Martins simply nails the piece by never succumbing to a hint of its status as a pop music icon, but instead imbuing the song with a heart-wrenching rue that even entails speaking lyrics rather than singing every note.
John La Riviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
A Little Night Music is infrequently done because of its difficult singing and a theme that speaks to more mature audiences. The beautifully performed production at the Stage Door Theatre is a rare chance to see the show that should not be missed.
A Little Night Music plays at the Stage Door Theatre through May 24th, 2009.

New POST website.

One word: loathsome. 

The Post took a mediocre website and turned into worthless junk.

Slow to load, jumpy on the screen, and I can't find any theater reviews on it anywhere.  They might be there, but who can find them?  The Sun-Sentinel is no longer the newspaper with the worst website.

Failing grade for the Palm Beach Post.

Sightings: Alex Weisman - UPDATED

You're probably asking "Who is Alex Weisman?" And that's understandable; in a lot of the shows he's been in locally, he's just been "one of the kids" in the crowd.

I know him from the Actors' Playhouse's very successful production of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. That was about ten years ago; I can hardly believe it's been that long! I designed the scenery, and he was one of the young actors who played Edmund (the show was double-cast). Edmund is a pivotal character, and Alex had him cold.

He's up in Chicago now, and he's just been cast in The History Boys at the Timeline Theatre Company. In this picture we see him at the first read through, courtesy of an article in New City Stage, a magazine serving Chicago's theatre scene. He and the other boys are on the cover of this week's issue.

The theatre has a blog: more pictures and backstage stories to be found there.

UPDATE: the review from the Chicago Tribune is out:
But “The History Boys” is all about the boys and Bowling has found a vivacious, empathetic, yearning pack—many of whom are barely out of school themselves. Fans of the movie might recall that the original boys were aging by the time the cameras arrived. Bowling delivers authentic youth, with all its messiness, intelligence, optimism and hope. There are any number of discoveries for Chicago’s casting directors: Alex Weisman’s deeply moving Posner ; Michael Peters’ gruff, Yorkshire-like Rudge ; Joel Gross’ deeply shallow Dakin ; Will Allan’s savvy Scripps. This terrific show—a triumphant revision, Chicago-style—deserves to be a huge hit for TimeLine, with the history boys making a deserved transition to the boys of summer.
- Chris Jones, the Chicago Tribune, April 28, 2009

Congratulations, Alex!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2 South Floridians get Drama Desk Noms

The Drama Desk nominations are out; the award recognizes Broadway and Off-Broadway productions in New York City.

Variety published the list, and two notable inclusions are:

Raul Esparza, for Best Actor in a Play, for Speed The Plow.
Mark Kudisch, for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, for 9 to 5.

Complete list here.

Great Ticket Deal for Mother's Day

The Promethean Theater is offering $15 tickets to its opening weekend performances of  Dumb Show (May 15th - 17th).
TPT is thrilled to announce its May production of DUMB SHOW by Joe Penhall. The Promethean Theatre is no stranger to the work of Mr. Penhall having staged a critically acclaimed production of his award-winning BLUE/ORANGE.

DUMB SHOW is a hilariously searing account of tabloid journalism, the value of fame and the overstepping of personal boundaries in the world of celebrity-worship and gossip-mongers.
You can order tickets online: enter the promotional code "MOM" to get the discount.

Rising Action Theater: The Andews Brothers (3 reviews)

The Andrews Brothers opened at Rising Action Theatre on April 3, 2009.

Dave Campbell directs (and choreographs) a cast that includes Joel S. Johnson, David Meulemans, Fermin Rojas and Alisha Todd. Musical Direction by Kevin Coughlin.

Rod Stafford Hagwood inflicts another one of his fragmentary "reviews" on the public, courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel:
The Andrews Brothers starts well enough.

The '40s-era musical at the Rising Action Theatre opens with some spirited singing by the four cast members.

But it isn't long before you realize that there is nothing new about this new musical by Roger Bean, and directed and choreographed by Dave Campbell under the musical direction of Kevin Coughlin.

And there isn't much that's funny, either.
I think someone needs to teach Rod that sentences can be aggregated into paragraphs. As for the rest of the review, let's just say that Rod liked this show about as much as I like his review of it.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
The Andrews Brothers is more 1940s musical revue with a gimmick than a fully realized musical. And that's particularly true at the Rising Action Theatre, where it's running through mid-May and reportedly pleasing both the gay and elderly segments of the company's audience.

Directed and choreographed by Dave Campbell, with musical direction by Kevin Coughlin, The Andrews Brothers delivers most solidly where it should, in the sound of its music.


The acting? There's not so much of that, not good acting anyway. Todd, who comes close to a wardrobe malfunction or two in Alberto Arroyo's costumes, is the best on the thespian front, displaying moxie, decent dance moves and pretending that there's a spark between Peggy and Patrick. There isn't.

The men move well, but it's unlikely that Bean's show (which premiered at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, a large regional theater, in 2005) is meant to imply that these guys really like dressing up as gals, which seems to be the case at Rising Action. Rojas has a particularly unfortunate problem in that he sweats massively, not just spotting his shirts but drenching every costume he puts on. That's difficult for him, but it makes his ''romantic'' scenes with Todd positively cringe-worthy.

J.W. Arnold reviewed for the South Florida Blade:
...while there is no gratuitous male nudity in The Andrews Brothers, Goldyn and director Dave Campbell do serve up the next best thing for gay audiences: boys in drag.
... the first act... the cast struggles with the choreography, and the musical and dance sequences also lack the kind of smooth transitions between dialogue and musical numbers that work in the movies. Perhaps it is more a weakness of the play than this staging.

Everything changes as soon as the boys don wigs and pumps—and even tap shoes—for the Andrews Sisters numbers. What was awkward in the first act finally becomes comedic...

Todd is perfectly cast in her standout role as the backup singer, approaching the role as a contemporary Dorothy Lamour. Her Peggy is smart and sassy and manipulates the stagehands expertly with her feminine wiles.

Vocally it is challenging for all the cast, but they shine most in the close harmonies, only impeded by some mixing issues in the booth that will be worked out through the run.
The Andrews Brothers plays at Rising Action Theatre through May 17, 2009


Monday, April 27, 2009

Remember That Guy From the Wall Street Journal?

Columnist's nameA few months ago, you may recall that the Wall Street Journal's Drama Critic reviewed a couple of shows in South Florida. Terry Teachout's reviews of The Chairs at Palm Beach DramaWorks, and Adding Machine at Gablestage, brought the local theatre scene to national prominence, and not coincidentally gave ticket sales a good kick in the pants.

Today Terry gives us an instruction manual on how to get him interested in reviewing your show. A lot of it is what you'd expect: he's more likely to visit an area with several shows to visit, he doesn't review community theater, he's picky about material, and so on.

But what may not seem obvious is that he's also judging by websites:

Web sites matter--a lot. A clean-looking home page that conveys a maximum of information with a minimum of clutter tells me that you know what you're doing, thus increasing the likelihood that I'll come see you. An unprofessional-looking, illogically organized home page suggests the opposite. (If you can't spell, hire a proofreader.) This doesn't mean I won't consider reviewing you--I know appearances can be deceiving--but bad design is a needless obstacle to your being taken seriously by other online visitors.

If you want to keep traveling critics happy, make very sure that the front page of your Web site contains the following easy-to-find information and features:

(1) The title of your current production, plus its opening and closing dates.

(2) Your address and main telephone number (not the box office!).

(3) A SEASON button that leads directly to a complete list of the rest of the current and/or upcoming season's productions. Make sure that this listing includes the press opening date of each production!

(4) A CALENDAR or SCHEDULE button that leads to a month-by-month calendar of all your performances, including curtain times.

(5) A CONTACT US button that leads to an updated directory of staff members (including individual e-mail addresses, starting with the address of your press representative).

(6) A DIRECTIONS or VISIT US button that leads to a page containing directions to your theater and a printable map of the area. Like many people, I now rely on my GPS unit when driving, so it is essential that this page also include the street address of the theater where you perform. Failure to conspicuously display this address is a hanging offense. (I also suggest that you include a list of recommended restaurants and hotels that are close to the theater.)

Any of this sound remotely familiar?

Be sure to read it, and if you work in theatre, compare his notes against your page, and take action.

Seriously, that hideous Actors' Playhouse page those ugly websites are killing me.

Mondays are Dark #3

This week's reading selections take us all around Florida, to the farthest shore, and the most obscure nooks and crannies.

Big Casting News

Maltz Jupiter Theatre will be sporting a largely South Florida cast when it premiers Martin Charnin's revised version of Love is Love this fall.

The show reunites Charnin with the original Broadway star of his musical Annie, Andrea McArdle. (Charnin wrote the lyrics and directed).

According to Kenneth Jones' article in Playbill:
Charnin said that he found so much talent in his Florida auditions that he decided to turn the three-actress Love is Love back into a four-actress show, as it was originally conceived. The Jupiter, FL, cast will also include Avery Sommers (Broadway's Platinum, Ain't Misbehavin'), Patti Eyler and Laura Hodos.
That's no surprise to the Theatre Scene; South Florida has long had a tremendous pool of talent.

Hey, where's the massage chair?

Fort Lauderdale Children's TheatreThe Fort Lauderdale Children's Theater has begun operations in its new home at the Galleria Mall. The Sun-Sentinel reports that FLCT's space in the Galleria's east wing was once home to Sharper Image and a few other stores that have since gone under.

Speaking of Children's Theatre... informs us that the 14th Annual National Children's Theater Festival at Actors' Playhouse starts Friday, May 1st. Usually, they feature the winner of their play competition, but it seems like they're reviving Miss Nelson is Missing.

Slice of Life interview on the Blade.

Dan Hudak interviews Jersey Boys cast member Jonathon Hadley for the Florida Blade.
...the most interesting thing I learned about the band came from speaking with Jonathan Hadley, who plays the band’s lyricist, Bob Crewe, in the production currently at the Broward Center through May 3.

“’Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ is one of the most successful pop songs ever written, but few people realize it’s basically a gay love song,” Hadley said.
Jersey Boys - and Hadley - plays at the Broward Center through May 3, 2009. There are still tickets available, but some performances in the past week have been Standing Room Only.

Fundraisers for SoFla Theatres've already reported fundraisers for scrappy newcomer Ground Up and Rising and the slightly more mature New Vista Theatre companies, but even long-established theatres need to raise money in this bleak economic climate: Caldwell Theatre is also holding a fundraiser performance.

BroadwayWorld reports that Copeland Davis will be playing at the Caldwell on May 30. This must be very recent; you can't find it anywhere on Caldwell's website.

From the Opposite Corner of Florida

COLUMNIST - FEATURESJay Handelman of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune writes an article that is relevant no matter which theatre scene you're in; the dwindling number of theatre critics and the attendant evaporation of media coverage of the arts.
"Now, even theaters seem to realize that theater critics are not adversaries but an integral part of the same industry," Rawson said, adding that the two groups need to find common ground "while maintaining important critical independence."
At one point, Handelman could almost be quoting me:
A movie or TV critic sees the same program no matter what city he or she writes in. But every production of "The Sound of Music" or "Hamlet" is different, and you can't review local theater, concerts and dance programs from far away. They are part of the community, no matter the size of the community.
A point that he doesn't address is neighboring papers regurgitating each others' reviews; apparently they aren't doing this on the Gulf Coast. But since we face this, we will take this opportunity to to state it again, in hopes that huge numbers of people will forward this to the publisher of the Sun-Sentinel:
Theatre patrons want to read different reviewers' opinions on a show before they make a decision: if you simply take the opinions of another paper, you rob your readers of a fresh perspective. And worse, by reprinting a review that we've already read in your competitor's paper, you seriously undermine your own relevance. Why should we buy the Sun-Sentinel - or even visit its website - if we have already read the story elsewhere?

...As Long As We're Across The State...

Tampa Bay Online reports that the Florida State Thespians competition was in full swing, and South Florida was represented:

Nineteen-year-old Nicole Smith from Miami Springs Senior High School was here this morning, outside the Performing Arts Center with the other 11 students from her troupe. They were performing "Yemaya's Belly," a play that won district competitions in South Florida.

She's been here before, but likely won't be here again.

"This is my last time, forever," she said. "I am going to enjoy this as much as I can. I'm just going to have fun."

Miami Springs High teacher and director, Marielva Seig, has been at this since 1996.

"This is what it is all about," she said in the early morning cool shade of the Performing Arts Center, her student actors and stagehands around her. "This is the most exciting thing we do all year."

Meanwhile, The Royal Poinciana Playhouse.. still closed. Last week, the Palm Beach Post published a letter from Patrick Henry Flynn, the president of the Palm Beach Theatre Guild:

This audience niche is one of the key factors in the Palm Beach Theater Guild's business plan for a re-adaptive use of the theater. The guild plans a regional subscription theater with attractions such as Ballet Florida, Palm Beach Symphony, Palm Beach Opera, and hopefully, a theater intern program with Palm Beach Atlantic University.

While we don't want to seem overwhelmingly negative, don't Palm Beach patrons already subscribe to Ballet Florida, Palm Beach Symphony, and Palm Beach Opera - at the Kravis Center, which is purpose-built to house them?

And of course, there's that niggling problem of Palm Beach's "town serving" law, which requires that any organization operating there would have to ensure that half its tickets were sold to village of Palm Beach residents.

And I really hate to point out the obvious, but we have to point out that the Palm Beach Theatre Guild doesn't own the property. That's kind of a huge obstacle, in the Theatre Scene's opinion.


Comments are welcome: even if it's disagree with The Scene, and perhaps especially then.

Mosaic Theatre: In Darfur (4 reviews)

   <em>In Darfur.</em> In Darfur opened at the Mosaic Theatre on April 16.

Richard Jay Simon directs a cast that includes Patrice DeGraff Arenas, Reiss Gaspard, Shelah Marie, vaughn-Rian St. James. Pilar Uribe, Keith C. Wade, and Ricky Waugh.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
...the play, despite its speed and the obvious power of its subject matter, is nearly lifeless on the stage. Never mind In Darfur's many supporting characters, who are barely given enough to do to qualify as placeholders; even Carlos and Maryka are only about as developed as Darfur itself. Their histories, motivations, and personalities are absent from Miller's text. Waugh and Uribe seem resigned to this and grimly give their all to a script that won't give them a clue — getting riled up, getting angry, getting over it, sharing nervous laughs, arguing with editors, arguing with police, all with lots of verve and no distinction. Despite the pair's considerable skill, they simply are not credible.
Yet for all this, In Darfur is crudely effective. There are lines in this play that feel like a bayonet in the guts. Howa: "Mothers choose among their children who will go get the firewood. If they send their sons, they get killed. If they send their daughters, they get raped. So they send their daughters."
...however poorly constructed In Darfur may be, there really is a Darfur, and you are hearing something true about it.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the Sun-Sentinel;
Arenas is luminous and affecting as the traumatized teacher who refuses to abandon her country no matter the extremities she had undergone and will continue to face. Other performances vary, bottoming out with a crucial off-stage voice on a phone that sounds as if the actress is reading her lines.
...Miller's script is as uneven as possible and director Richard Jay Simon can only ride what he is given.
If only they had overhead translations for the unintelligible and unexplained swamp of bureaucratic acronyms rattled off by the journalist and the doctor. The dump trucks of socio-political background that Miller saddles them with are so unsubtle, so hard to follow and so rote in their delivery that it deadens the impact of the show repeatedly. It's reminiscent of social studies films in which bewigged figures regurgitate pros and cons of historical events.
Besides Arenas' performance, the strongest elements are visual and aural. Steve Shapiro blends exotic music, echoes of warfare and non-representational sounds. Patrick Tennant's lighting fluidly morphs place and time of day. But top honors go to Sean McClelland's sand-blasted sun-drenched array of spindly poles lashed to tent skins and a platform evoking a map of Sudan.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Richard Jay Simon's staging, the excellent cast's impassioned acting, the design team's beautiful work -- which includes video, supertitle translations and another artfully expressive set by Sean McClelland -- are all first-rate.
The play itself has flaws, though through Mosaic's interpretation Miller accomplishes her sociopolitical mission: You leave feeling that you must do something to help Darfur's millions.
Ron Levitt reviewed for Florida Media News:
this play is much more than a tribute to fine direction, superb acting and technical excellence. It is mind-altering theatre and a call to arms to fight such social and political injustice as is occurring in this part of the Sudan. One would have to be hiding behind a venetian blind not to recognize the message it is bringing into view, asking for your recognition and involvement. You –its audience – are invited into the lives of the characters to learn of their quest for justice.
In Darfur plays at Mosaic Theatre through May 3, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hey, Joe's Got a Theater....

Whenever they needed to raise funds in an old Andy Hardy movie, someone would inevitably remember "Hey! My Dad has a barn! We could put on a show!" And Judy Garland would raid her aunt's closets for costumes, and the day would be saved.

In South Florida, Joe Adler is prone to let some of the area's smaller and scrappier theater companies use his stage to raise money for their own. Add Ground Up and Rising to a list that includes Mad Cat, and Naked Stage, among others.

BroadwayWorld reports that Ground Up and Rising will perform John Kolvenbach's On An Average Day at GableStage on May 11, 12, and 13.

Tickets $25
ALL proceeds to benefit Ground Up & Rising
Reservations: 305.445.1119

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Carbonell Moment

Jim Brochu accepts his Carbonell, and tells a tale of Reilly.

Jim directed The Odd Couple at Broward Stage Door, which just opened. Welcome to the South Florida Theatre Scene, Jim!

(From the 33rd Annual Carbonell Award Ceremony, and thanks to Steve Schalchlin for sharing this video on YouTube.)

2009 Summer Theatre Season.

Yes, Virginia, there is theater in summer in Florida. Yes, it slows down; after all, it's the off-season. The snowbirds have fled to cooler temps, and only the boldest tourists stand up to the humidity.

Sink back into your seat in a nice, air-conditioned theater, and enjoy the show...

(BTW, I will be adding to this: some theatres are still choosing their summer pieces, and I expect will see some Shakespeare from the usual suspects)
(And if you don't see your show, post a comment).

My Name is Rachel Corrie
The Alliance Theatre Lab

The New Century

Signature Shorts
City Theater at Broward Center

City Theatre at Broward Center


Some Kind of Wonderful!,
Florida Stage,
through August 30.
I Love a Piano,
Cuillo Center for the Arts,
(open ended).
Married ALIVE!,
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater,
through Aug 16.

Mamma Mia,
Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
through August 9.

Speaking Elephant,
The Women's Theatre Project,
through August 30.
The Whipping Man,
Caldwell Theatre Company,
through August 30.
through September 13.
CANNIBAL! The Musical,
The Promethean Theatre,
through September 6.
No, No, Nanette,
Broward Stage Door Theatre,
through Sep 27
The Taming of the Shrew
New Theatre
through Sep 27

The Glass Menagerie,
Broward Stage Door Theatre,
through November 1.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Vista Theatre Company Announces Schedule Change

New Vista Theatre Company has officially canceled its upcoming production of The Shop on Main Street, another victim of the current economy.

But the theatre won't be dark, and the company isn't closing its doors - yet:
In its place, to save the New Vista Theatre Company and in order to fulfill our obligation to our loyal subscribers, we are planning a series of benefit performances entitled:
Shop On Main logo - clean.JPGHosted by artistic director Avi Hoffman, and with the help of local celebrities, the evening will consist of 90 minutes of selections by many of the best performers in South Florida, VOLUNTEERING their time and talent to help The New Vista Theatre survive.

We will be showcasing the extraordinary talent pool of ACTORS, SINGERS, DANCERS and other performers of all ages who call the South Florida Performing Arts community their home.


ALL TICKETS ARE ONLY $20, AND ALL PROCEEDS will benefit The New Vista Theatre Company, in its effort to survive the economic downturn.

When: Opens Thursday, April 30th

Closes Sunday, May 10th


Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm

Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm

The Scene for April 24, 2009 (UPDATED)

(grumble grumble grumble) Why the heck doesn't Stage Doors make sure they are listed at either of the calenders covering South Florida so that I don't have people emailing me updates hour and hours after I post the upcoming openings? Anywho, I've added Odd Couple to this week's openings, and I wish they'd get serious out there about communications.

It's been a busy week at The Scene; we live-blogged from the Broward Center, we introduced a new layout, and we've been scrambling to keep up with the reviews coming in for the ten shows that opened six shows seen by critics last week.

Things are still cooking; this week, we feature 18 plays playing across all three counties that make up South Florida. Something is playing close to you; don't miss it.


The Interview opens Thursday at the Women's Theater Project.

The Odd Couple opens Thursday at Broward Stage Door. Neil Simon, you say? Why bother, you say? Ken Clement as Oscar against Dan Kelley's Felix, I say.

At Home At The Zoo opens Friday at Palm Beach Drama Works. This is Edward Albee's prequel to his Zoo Story.

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

still playing

Mad Cat Theatre Company will be running BroadSword at the Light Box, through May 2, 2009.

In Darfur plays at Mosaic Theatre through May 3, 2009

Cagney! runs through May 3, 2009 has been extended through May 6th at Florida Stage. Four out of five critics recommend it, and the fifth says you should see it anyway.

I Ain't Yo' Uncle: The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom's Cabin runs through May 10th at The M Ensemble.

No Child runs through May 17 at GableStage.

Mauritius plays at New Theatre through May 17.

Something's Afoot is at the Caldwell Theater through May 17.

Rising Action Theatre runs The Andrews Brothers through May 17, 2009.

A Little Night Music plays at the Stage Door Theatre through May 24th, 2009.

passing through

The National Tour of Jersey Boys will be rocking the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through May 3.

A Love Lost Life: The Unauthorized Story of Marlon Brando plays this weekend at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach. Christine Dolen tells us about the production.

The Hate U Gave: The Tupac Shakur Story by Ground Up and Rising, this week in Miami Beach.

last chance to see

Sol Theater's "limited engagement" of The Vagina Monologues closes April 26.

for kids

Maltz Jupiter Theatre presents the school edition of Les Miserables on April 24 & 25.

Inanna and the Huluppu Tree plays at The Playground Theatre through May 22nd, 2009

The Three Little Pigs plays Saturday at the Miramar Cultural Center.

Bob the Builder LIVE! - Spud's Big Mess comes to the Parker Playhouse Friday through Sunday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cheeky Chic; BKT goes to the Carbonells.

Red-carpet worthy at Broward Center for the Carbonell AwardsIf you were at the recent Carbonell Awards Ceremony, you couldn't help but notice Brandon K. Thorp and Penn Bullock decked out in some truly rad threads.

Brandon tells the tale of how he and Penn came to sport these Jimmy Star creations in an article he wrote for Miami Artzine.

Brandon not only finds fine fashion, but he discovers that the South Florida Theatre Scene might not be quite as stodgy as he thought.

Read it.

(Tip of the hat to Mary Damiano for pointing out the story to me)

GableStage: No Child (3 reviews)

   Nilaja Sun in <em>No Child</em> GableStage opened Nilaja Sun's No Child on April 18th.

GableStage Artistic Director Joe Adler directs Carbonell Award winner Lela Elam in this tour-de-force one woman show.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
Too much has been said about Lela Elam for this statement to make much of an impact, but here it goes: Lela Elam is a great actress. And though her current play, No Child..., probably has a profound message to share — something about hopes and dreams and the innate potential of children languishing in our inner-city public schools — Elam was what I thought about as I walked from the theater to my car, and Elam was what my date and I discussed on our ride home.
There are two reasons for this. One: Elam is an overwhelming talent, and No Child... is a one-woman showpiece designed for such overwhelming talents, because its lone actress must inhabit no fewer than 16 different characters. Two: If it weren't such a showpiece, No Child... would be a pretty awful play.
To say...(it)...bears an unfortunate resemblance to certain older plays and movies would be an understatement. In fact, if you've seen Blackboard Jungle/To Sir, with Love/Class of 1984/The Principal/Stand and Deliver/Lean on Me/Class of 1999/Sister Act II/Dangerous Minds/The Substitute/Freedom Writers/The Class, you've seen this. I'd rank No Child... right between Dangerous Minds and Stand and Deliver, though it's funnier than either and a lot less unsettling.
Did I mention Lela Elam? Because apart from a smart, spare set by Tim Connelly — a grimy, archetypal public schoolroom, half hall and half classroom, stretched improbably skyward in a way that suggests Gothic horror as much as social studies — she is the whole damn show. And what a show.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
It's one thing for an actor-playwright to perform a multicharacter piece crafted from her own experiences and tailored to her talents, as Sun did with No Child or April Yvette Thompson did with Liberty City. It's quite another for a different performer to step into those many pairs of shoes, becoming a test both for the new actor and for the strength of the play itself. At GableStage, both the inspired Elam and No Child earn a solid A.
With director Joseph Adler's clarifying guidance helping her make (and keep) each character distinct, Elam changes on a dime from the enthusiastic Ms. Sun to blinged-out Shondrika to Star Wars fan Chris to a kid named Phillip, whose Our Country's Good line readings change before our very eyes thanks to Ms. Sun's canny direction.
Elam is equally compelling as the no-nonsense, get-it-done principal Mrs. Kennedy; a humorless Jamaican security guard, who does battle with Shondrika's bling; and the wise Janitor Baron, the No Child narrator who has seen teachers, kids and educational trends come and go in his half century at the school.
Ron Levitt reviews for Florida Media News:
...No Child, the tour de force production at GableStage starring Lela Elam, has to be given a straight "A."
Elam was directed by the steady hand of Joseph Adler, the guiding light of GableStage at the Biltmore, who is recognized for his theatrical brilliance and his uncanny ability to showcase plays which earn respect...
Leave it to Joe Adler to put together a professional technical team. The bare school corridor and classroom designed by Tim Connelly are the A-1 backdrops for Jeff Quinn’s lighting and the always top-of-the-class sound guru Matt Corey.
No Child runs through May 17 at GableStage.

Caldwell Theatre: Something's Afoot (2 reviews)

Something's Afoot marks the departure of Artistic Director Michael Hall from the Caldwell Theatre, a company he founded over three decades ago.

Michael hall directs a cast that includes Beth Dimon, Jim Ballard, Lisa Manuli, Angie Radosh, John Felix, Terry Hardcastle, Crista Moore, Michael Shawn Louis,Don Stansfield, and Tim Bennett in a rare appearance.

Kevin D. Thompson reviewed for the Palm Beach Post;
Something's Afoot, although humorous in spots, misses way more than it hits and lacks the comedic zing that's the cornerstone of all rib-tickling parodies.
(it) boasts the type of hammy, cardboard cutout characters you'd expect to see in a murder-mystery spoof, including the booze-guzzling playboy (Jim Ballard), the dependable handyman (Terry Hardcastle), the devoted butler (Don Stansfield), the wide-eyed optimist (Lisa Manuli) and a Miss Marple-ish spinster (Elizabeth Dimon). Of that group, only the comically over-the-top Ballard really registers by playing Nigel Rancour as a cross between Sean Connery and Inspector Clouseau. But minus the French accent.
Something's afoot all right. And it kinda stinks.
Ouch. I think it's safe to say that that's a 'thumbs down' from Kevin.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Something’s Afoot is the sort of show that requires its performers to make the material seem better than it is, as Felix does with an amusing multi-part death scene and Moore, who adds an extra lilt to Barbara Flaten’s unexceptional choreography. Bennett makes a brief appearance as Dr. Grayburn, long enough to make the point that switching to become the company’s technical director was a savvy career move. Even the reliable Dimon seems stymied by the plodding role of Miss Tweed.

Still, the cast is far more interesting than the show they try desperately to sell us. The thought of them having to keep doing Something’s Afoot for the next five weeks is cringe-worthy. Not that he is without blame, but it is unfortunate that this is the show with which Hall makes his exit.
Something's Afoot plays at the Caldwell Theater Company through May 17, 2009.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tharon Musser, age 84 (updated 4/21)

Tony award winning lighting designer Tharon Musser has died at age 84, according to TheatreMania. There's a better obituary at LiveDesign. The Miami Herald picked up the AP version. The New York Times just published their obit.

I believe that there was a brief time in the 80's when every show on Broadway was under lights designed by Tharon.

What's the connection to South Florida? She designed the lights on the ill-fated production of Thom Eyen and Henry Kreiger's Dangerous Music at the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre. I remember her puffing away on her pipe as the lighting crew re-programmed the great-grandaddies of intelligent lighting; their control levels had to be calibrated before every performance, and even then it wasn't unusual for one light to be pointed off in a tangent.

UPDATE April 28:
Live Design has been getting a lot of tributes to Tharon, and they've published them here.

Update on New Format

First, thank you all for your support and positive comments! It's heartening to see this much support for a change that is as comprehensive as this one has been.

I've also noticed a jump in traffic on the site; and it doesn't seem to be fixated on one post: it's across the boards! I don't know if this is just a coincidence or not, but I can see a definite jump right after I went online with this version.

I just wanted to update you on some of the tweaks I've made since we debuted this new format on Sunday:
  • Restored full posts instead of a summary followed by link
  • Moved the email comment form so it's not partially hidden
  • repaired the comment forms for each post.
  • Restored the search bar at the top of the page.
  • Added "recent posts" widget and changed the archive format.
  • Added the FEEDJIT widget to the bottom of the page.
This last item is really cool: you can see where in the world people are reading this blog, you can see how they got here, and you can see what links they follow out. It doesn't list IP addresses or anything like that, but you can see where people are coming from, what they're reading, and where they're going.

I'm glad you enjoy using the Theatre Scene as much as I enjoy putting it together. Keep those comments coming!

Monday, April 20, 2009

PB Shakespeare Festival: Dead Man's Cell Phone (review)

Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival ran Sara Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone for just the one weekend, but since it's the second production of the play this season, I thought it worth covering.

Hap Erstein
reviewed it for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper, and fortunately for us, he saw the earlier production at Mosaic Theatre.
At Mosaic, Jean was played as a walking neurotic, which certainly offered an added layer of comedy. At Palm Beach Shakespeare, Natasha Sherritt plays her as an empty vessel to be filled with electronic messages, telling people what they want to hear, somewhat reminiscent of Peter Sellers’ Chauncey Gardiner in Being There.
She leaves the bravura acting to David Hyland as dead Gordon. He opens the second act with a monologue in which he recalls the afternoon of his death, going to the café because of a lobster bisque craving. There he notices and becomes smitten with Jean just before his demise. Gordon shakes up the play, just as Hyland wakes up the production.
The best notion to come from co-directors Kermit Christman and Del Tenney was to commission a two-minute contemporary ballet by Ballet Florida’s Jerry Opdenaker, inserted in the second act.
With her intimations of mortality, Ruhl seems to want to say something, but after seeing her play twice in relatively quick succession, I remain at a loss to know what that is.
This is a summary of Hap's full review. Click through to get the whole story.

M Ensemble: I Ain't Yo' Uncle (1 review)

   Dominick Daniel, Curtis Allen, Carey Hart and Rosemary Cipolla (seated) in <em>I Ain't Yo Uncle: The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom's Cabin</em> at M Ensemble. M Ensemble opened Robert Alexander's I Ain't Yo' Uncle: The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom's Cabin on April 16.

Jerry Maple Jr. directs a cast that includes Latrice Bruno, Curtis Allen, Carey Hart, Dominick Daniel, Loye Hawkins, and Rosemary Cipolla.

Christine Dolen reviews for the Miami Herald:

When an artfully antagonistic version of Topsy from Uncle Tom's Cabin kicks off M Ensemble's new show with a hip-hop rant about Harriet Beecher Stowe, you can't help thinking, ``This is going to be good.''


And whenever Latrice Bruno's politically aware Topsy is onstage in Robert Alexander's I Ain't Yo' Uncle: The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom's Cabin, the satire is good: tart, illuminating, deliciously comedic. But alas, Bruno isn't onstage often enough.


The larger problem is that playwright Alexander simply squanders too many opportunities for pithy satirical insight into the bestselling novel of the 19th century. Instead, the abolitionist tome's familiar characters -- Topsy, Uncle Tom (Curtis Allen), Eliza (Carey Hart), George (Dominick Daniel), Little Eva (also played by Hart), Simon Legree (Loye Hawkins) and the rest of Stowe's famous crew -- slog through the plot as though they're demonstrating to the defensive Stowe (Rosemary Cipolla) the myriad ways in which she got it wrong.


The production's dozen actors range from competent to good (Hart, Daniel and Allen) to the in-a-class-by-herself Bruno. She gets the tone, style and scale of her performance just right. If I Ain't Yo' Uncle were ever to become a solo show, Bruno would be the actor to hire.

I Ain't Yo' Uncle: The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom's Cabin runs through May 10th at The M Ensemble.

Mondays are Dark #2

Not a lot of articles this weekend: most writers were out reviewing the astonishing number of plays that opened this past weekend. Ten plays is a lot, but only 6 of them were really on the "must see" list.

So some of these matters actually come from before the weekend, but I have not addressed them until now: but it's funny; they all seem to have a theme of "change" going for them..must be something in the air...

Changing of the Guard brings Unexpected Bonus
Christine Dolen notes that Something's Afoot marks the end of Michael Hall's tenure as Artistic Director of the Caldwell Theatre. As if to celebrate, the Caldwell is offering its patrons a little gift:
...two kids from 10 to 17 can see the show for free when they go with an adult who buys a full-priced ticket at 8 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and 7 p.m. this Sunday and April 26.

Changing Line-up brings, um, Change to a...Changed Line-up.

Promethean Theatre has had yet a another change in its line up; David Mamet's Speed The Plow has been replaced with the regional premier of Joe Penhall's Dumb Show. Speed the Plow, as you may recall, was a replacement for the originally scheduled Kimberly Akimbo.

According to Promethean's Producing Artistic Director, Deborah L. Sherman, she had a specific cast in mind for Kimberly Akimbo, and when those casting choices became unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances, she chose to hold off that production until she could have her ideal cast perform it. Thus the change to Speed the Plow. So what happened to Speed the Plow?

"We lost the rights," she told me shortly before the Carbonell Awards. "We did have them, but there was a conflict with another theater." She declined to tell me which one.

This isn't all that unusual; a few years ago, through a clerical error, both Actors' Playhouse and GableStage were given the rights to Anthony Horowitz's Mindgame. Apparently, the agency handling the licensing didn't realize that the two theatres were not only less than 90 miles from each other, they were less than a single mile! Actors' Playhouse had secured the rights first, but GableStage had placed it earlier in its season. GableStage's Joe Adler finally convinved the Playhouse's David Arisco that since the Playhouse was doing the show months later, they'd have more time to find a replacement, and Arisco grudgingly agreed.

Unfortunately, Arisco got stung by another licensing snafu: he read the original script to Anthony Shaffer's Murderer, and thought that it would be a good fit. He licensed the show, and his assistant ordered scripts for the actors, and then discovered that there was a new script; Shaffer had re-written the play shortly before he died, and the new script...was frankly awful. It completely deflated the dramatic tension, and took the play from being a dark thriller into a very bad mystery spoof. The agency screwed up by not notating the fact there were two versions of the play, and that only the new version was being licensed. Arisco did the best he could, but it's very hard to overcome a bad script. It's a shame, because there were some staging gimmicks that were fun to rig, but with no payoff to the stories, no one remembers the high production values of the show.

Anyhow, back to the change from Speed the Plow. This is a notable difference from the first time Speed the Plow was announced for a Florida production; the old Florida Rep (the one that was located where the Cuillo Center is, not the one in Fort Myers) announced it 20 years ago, while the show was still on Broadway, with Madonna drawing in crowds. Of course, their season lineup included phrasing to the effect that "shows are subject to change without notice, no refunds or exchanges" or more accurately: "shows are subject to change without notice,no refunds or exchanges."

A not-so-welcome change in a line-up; New Vista Theatre has added a series of fund-raisers to its season. I only wish it weren't being done out of necessity; the sluggish economy has dried up usual streams of donations for the arts. Avi Hoffman is popular in the performing community, so look for some great evenings of entertainment. If you're a performer, sign up to perform, and if you're not, buy a ticket.

Change for Change's Sake..whatever.

Speaking of Palm Beach, the Shiny Sheet has done something kind of contrary; usually, the papers do a puff piece about the show a week or so before it opens, and follows it up with a review. But Jan Sjostrom's article in Sunday's Daily News about Cagney comes after the review, and after the play's been running for a few weeks. Well, any story's a good story, I say.

Change of Venue...Medium? Well, it's different for them.

Conundrum Stages is going from reading plays in front of a live audience to reading them on camera. Well, not permanently: they'll be taping for an upcoming OnStage with Iris Acker on BeconTV.

But Change Out Of Your Jammies.

The Alliance Theatre Lab now has its tickets available online:
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Alliance has finally entered the 1990s! You can buy tickets for "Strange Snow" right now, from that comfy computer chair, without even having to put pants on!

Well, I guess that's change for the better. But please get dressed before coming to the theatre.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

While you were sleeping...

..I've been tinkering. As the old Theatre Scene expanded, I felt it was becoming harder and harder to find things on it. I've been looking at new templates for awhile, and I finally found one that I liked, and that I thought I could tailor to suit my needs.

Everything that was in the old Scene is here in the new one; although there have been some format changes. For example, theatre blogs are now all in one widget instead of each having their own separate news feed widget. The most recently updated blog will appear on top.

The Miami Herald still has its own RSS feed of theatre stories; it's the only media outlet that currently has an RSS feed for theatre stories. When and if other sources add RSS feeds for South Florida theatre stories, I will give them their own feed. In the meantime, those other media outlets have the same links they did before.

The "Contact" widget has been moved to the bottom of the page, as has the list of professional organizations. They just seemed to fit there so nicely.

You'll also find a nifty new menubar at the top of the page: this will jump you to The Scene, the reviews, the Auditions and Job Listings pages.

I expect that there will be some growing pains: perhaps there are better locations for some things, or I can tweak things to make them eaiser to read. Feedback is important: please leave me comments telling me what does and doesn't work; are things in a sensible order? Are the fonts difficult to read? Do you like the link colors? Let me know: if you can't read the blog, or find what you're looking for, I need to know so I can fix it.

I do know that some older articles will be kind of jostled by the narrower central column, so some older storied might need graphics adjusted. I will be working on the more recent article first, and I probably won't do the much older versions unless I'm asked.

So please bear with me as I iron out the kinks, and do let me know how you like it. I really do want your input and suggestions.

Thank you for reading!

Florida Stage: CAGNEY! (6 Reviews)

CAGNEY! opened at Florida Stage on March 27. 2009.

Robert Creighton wrote the book with help of Peter Colley.

Christopher McGovern wrote 12 of the shows 18 songs, and you can't do a show about James Cagney without the work of George M. Cohan.

Bill Castellino directs a cast that includes the piece's creator, Robert Creighton, as well as performances by Darrin Baker, Ellen Zollezi, Brian Ogilvie, and Tina Stafford.

The show also featured musical direction by Christopher McGovern, and choreography by Jeff Shade.

Kevin D. Thompson reviewed for the Palm Beach Post:
Cagney! is the brainchild of Robert Creighton, a veteran Broadway actor (The Little Mermaid) who also convincingly plays the wildly energetic Cagney as if he were shot out of a cannon.

Cagney! is also served well by the show's polished five-member ensemble who play multiple roles with ease (Bette Davis, Bob Hope, Cagney's wife, etc.) and who work harder than five James Browns combined under Bill Castellino's sure-footed direction.

... you believe you're watching James Cagney, the quintessential tough man who really only wanted to dance.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
It is hard to say what lies ahead for singer-dancer Robert Creighton, but it seems unlikely he will ever have a part as well suited to his considerable talents as Jimmy Cagney.

That is not to say that Cagney! ... is an entirely successful account of the life and times of the Oscar-winning hoofer and cinematic gangster icon. It struggles to find sufficient drama in Cagney’s climb to stardom, and when it comes up short, the show settles for entertaining songs and tap numbers that add little to the story line.

Although director Bill Castellino has a serviceable cast, none of the other five hard-working performers is on Creighton’s level. I never thought I would suggest this, but perhaps Cagney’s story would be better served by being reconceived as a one-man show.

Cagney! has been long in development and judging from the demand for tickets -- the show is virtually sold out for its run here, through May 3 -- there is significant fascination for the title character. At the moment, Cagney! is diverting enough, but there is a better show lurking within the material that has not yet surfaced.

Still, if you can figure out a way to see it, you are bound to be impressed by Creighton.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for the Palm Beach Daily News:
Cagney! proves that in the right hands even a guy who's remembered primarily for playing gangsters in the movies can be transmuted into compelling musical theater.

Creighton inhabits the role of Cagney from the first moment he walks on stage with his chin thrust out, his eyes wide and his stance recalling the amateur boxer Cagney was in his youth. Darrin Baker's delightfully ruthless and egotistical Warner provides the foil for the idealistic Cagney.

Cagney! is a shining example of what Florida Stage can do when all the pieces fall into place.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Herald:
Now getting a world premiere run at Florida Stage, Cagney! has several things going for it, not the least of which is that the audience goes crazy for the show.

Star Robert Creighton, like Cagney a red-haired dynamo of an entertainer, gradually supersedes memories of the real Cagney as the 2 ½-hour musical unfolds. When he tackles the George M. Cohan numbers that helped win Cagney an Oscar for Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942, Creighton earns every decibel of the crowd's wild cheers and applause.

Director Bill Castellino and choreographer Jeff Shade keep Cagney! moving, though certain moments -- Warner smooching his secretary at the end of a number, a string of insipid jokes, bad impersonations of Bette Davis and Errol Flynn -- drag it down. Not that the audience, thoroughly charmed by Creighton-as-Cagney, gives a hoot.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
...a magnificent musical that is guaranteed to put a great big grin on your face.

Director Bill Castellino keeps the tone frothy but still injects a real sense of urgency to the plot. Part of the fun of Cagney is it staged renditions of famous Cagney film moments from such films as The Public Enemy and White Heat. Those who haven't seen these classics will enjoy the back story of how they came to be, but the movie lovers in the audience will really get a kick out of them because they'll be in on the joke.

Cagney! boasts a talented ensemble cast who each get time to shine.

But the star of Cagney! is Robert Creighton.... Creighton becomes Cagney, so much so that although the musical traces more than 50 years of Cagney's life, no aging make-up is needed.

...magnificent from start to finish. It earns the exclamation point in its title.
John LaRiviere reviews for Talkin' Broadway:
Robert Creighton is simply wonderful as James Cagney. There is enough resemblance between the two men to make the premise work, he has the nimble dancing feet of Cagney, and to be honest—sings better than Cagney ever did.

Stafford gives us a nice turn as Cagney's mother, and Ogilvie as his brother Bill is most likable. Baker's portrayal of Jack Warner is solid, except for the annoying habit of loudly clapping his hands together (or slapping objects down on his desk) every time he makes a declarative statement.
If it's supposed to be annoying, doesn't that mean it works? Just a thought, having once received the same note for a similar choice.
A great deal of work has clearly gone into the original music in the show, as the composers use melodies in counterpoint more than once, and give us fully written harmonic parts. The songs are just not special or memorable enough for the subject matter, and do not seem to spring organically from the scenes in which they are placed. The scenes containing specific bits of film rehearsal and reenactments are interesting and well written, but the script as a whole needs stronger plot points and greater continuity between them. The production is worth seeing for Creighton's performance as Cagney, but the show Cagney! is in need of some work to match the caliber of his performance.
Cagney! runs through May 3, 2009 at Florida Stage.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lunch with Rick Elice: live blog

Here's how it's going to work: I will post comments to this post, so each entry gets a time stamp. Feel free to add comments or responses to my comments. Later on, I will move everything up into the body of the post (probably - or I might just leave it. Depends on how many comments I make.)

There are still seats - and lunches - available to this event. And Rick will sign anything you like afterwards. Bill would, too, but he has a lot of reviews to finish this weekend.

The doors have opened, and the interview will start a little after 12 noon.

Poll Results: The Most Read Reviewers in SoFla

The dust has settled, and the results are in:

In order of readership:
  1. Christine Dolen - 67%
  2. Brandon K. Thorp - 60%
  3. Bill Hirschman - 55%
  4. Mary Damiano - 45%
  5. Hap Erstein - 35%
  6. Kevin D. Thompson - 15%
  7. Jan Sjostrom - 12%
  8. Rod Hagwood - 5%
It was a topsy-turvy week of poll-taking. For most of the week, Christine Dolen dominated, ranging from 100% to 95%. Thursday, Brandon K. Thorp surged ahead, and gained a decisive lead over Dolen for a time. But then another wave of voters shifted the balance once again.

The results look about right, to me.

Christine and Bill have been reviewing for years, and for a time they were the top two. Brandon is the youngest of the reviewers, but writes for two different editions of New Times. It's a weekly, while the other reviewers can get reviews out more often, and frankly, he's a great read.

Mary and Hap both lost their positions in print media, but have moved into Internet-based web magazines. And while their web-based rags are focused on a fraction of the total arts scenes (Miami and Palm Beach) they still review plays over the entire region.

Kevin, Jan, and Rod all write for daily newspapers, but they only cover shows in their 'neighborhoods,' (although Kevin occasionally covers shows at the Broward Center). Kevin and Rod are also the rookies, with less than a year of theatre review under their belts. Jan has been writing for years, but her paper is sharply focused on Palm Beach (much like the town itself). That limits her appeal, but that's true of her paper, too.

In the final analysis, the writers who review the most shows across the region have the most readers, and that's a fact that certain editors need to embrace. People don't live 'only in Fort Lauderdale' or 'only in West Palm Beach,' or even 'only in Miami.' They sleep in those places. They don't live there.

People live in South Florida.


Friday, April 17, 2009


The New Vista Theatre Company will close out its season with a series of benefit concerts aimed at saving the Company from having to close its doors:

The New Vista Variety Hour (and a ½)

We are seeking the best talent that So. Florida has to offer to help us in our time of need.

We are looking for actors, singers and dancers to fill one or more five minute slots for any or all of our concerts between April 30 and May 10.

Artistic Director Avi Hoffman will MC.

We invite you to come SING, DANCE and ENTERTAIN!

We will have concerts for two weekends:

Thursday evenings April 30 and May 7 at 8 pm
Friday evenings May 1 and 8 at 8 pm
Saturday matinees and evenings May 2 and 9 at 2 pm and 8 pm
Sunday matinees May 3 and 10 at 2 pm

There will be no pay, but won’t it feel good to help out a theatre in need?

Please call or email Peter Librach at (561) 482-4144 / for information and to sign up for one or more 5 minute slots for any or all of these performance dates.