Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Empire Stage: He's Coming Up the Stairs (3 reviews)

Empire Stage opened its production of He's Coming Up the Stairs on July 22, 2010.
Inspired by “Sorry, Wrong Number” – the stage and screen thriller about an invalid who overhears plans for her own murder – the seventy minute play follows a high society hypochondriac as she navigates New York’s social scene on what may be the last day of her life. Set in 1989, the show features a number of popular songs from the 80’s.
Kevin Thomsen directed a cast that included Brooks Braselman, David R. Gordon, Emily Shaffer and Vance Barber.

The Sun-Sentinel has declined to review this production.*

J. W. Arnold reviewed for the South Florida Gay News:
Scott reworks the thriller about a hypochondriac socialite who overhears the plot for her own murder on the phone and turns it into a gender-bending piece of high camp that is loaded with laughs.
Braselman delivers a fantastic, campy performance—the whole show really hangs on him—that is backed up by a strong supporting cast. And, the more melodramatic they get, the better: Gordon as the sleazy husband, playwright Scott as Ivana Trump, Vance Barber as Sally’s daddy and the greasy butler, and Emily Shaffer as her nurse and Jeff’s mistress. The chemistry is key and all deliver under Kevin Thomsen’s fast-paced direction.
Mary Damiano reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Tongues are firmly planted in cheeks for this riotous redux, in which the lead role of haranguing heiress Sally Winston is played in drag by actor Brooks Braselman, an actor who’ll do anything for a laugh.
The element that makes He’s Coming Up the Stairs work is that the cast and director are all in the same zany arena.  Every line is milked for maximum melodrama.  Emily Shaffer is wonderful as Sally’s nurse and Jeff’s mistress, but she really shines as young Sally in the flashback scenes.  Gordon is perfectly cast as the broad-shouldered hunk who married for money.
Garet Scott, who wrote the play, has a ball as Ivana Trump. Vance Barber is best as Sally’s daddy... Director Kevin Thomsen wisely keeps the pace brisk and the show short–an hour is just the right length for this level of hilarity.

But it all comes back to Braselman as Sally Winston.  For the energetic Braselman, over-the-top is an understatement–he’s consistently out in the stratosphere–and his audacious performance is a comic tour de force.
Eileen Speigler reviewed "special" to the Miami Herald, and inflicts a pointless food metaphor (and a poorly written review) on us:
If you feel like a nightcap after dinner, Empire Stage has whipped up a little number that will hit the spot.
Hypochondriac heiress Sally Winston (is) played with unflagging energy by Braselman...
Braselman's four fellow cast members play a variety of roles with a delicious dollop of cheese.
Hopefully, Ms. Speigler will get a job reviewing restaurants so I won't have to endure reading one of her theatre "reviews"  again.  "Dollop of cheese?"  Really? 

The Empire Stage production of He's Coming Up the Stairs plays through August 15, 2010.

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