Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bill's Top Ten

We've had the Hapsters; now Bill Hirschman not only lists his Top Ten Shows of 2010 at South Florida Theater Review, he lists the best and worst of area theater.

He didn't flatly pick a worst show, but of one he suggested might considered, he wrote:
People in the audience pressed the glow-in-the-dark button on their watches so often, you thought there were fireflies loose in the auditorium.
Perhaps we should create an Opus Award, in memory of Opus the Penguin's review of Benji Saves the Universe:

(click for larger image)

The Scene for December 31, 2011

The holidays always put us a little off-stride; do we schedule a show for the day?  The day before?  Matinee?  And if you're using the time to visit family and friends, schedules are thrown off even more, which is why we're late with this week's Scene.

So here's what's happening on the first weekend of 2011:


Sharon Gless stars as A Round-Heeled Woman at GableStage, through January 30.

you still haven't missed...

Goldie, Max, and Milk plays at Florida Stage through January 16.

MAME plays at the Stage Door Theatre through February 6, 2011.

Palm Beach Dramaworks presents Freud's Last Session through February 6, 2011.

The Stage Door Theatre presents A Taffetta Wedding  through January 16.

Laffing Matterz  serves up the laughs at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010.

passing through...

Maltz Jupiter Theatre celebrates the New Year with The Capitol Steps, Friday and Saturday only.

The Arsht Center presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast through January 2.  But it plays at the Kravis Center the week after.

The critics are raving about Rock of Ages , at the Broward Center through January 9.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Year on the Theatre Scene

It was a busy year on The Scene; we passed 100,000 readers back in March, we've added a Facebook Fan Page and Twitter to our repertoire, and posted 333 articles, including this one.  That doesn't beat last year's record of 436, but it's loads better than the paltry 49 articles of 2007.

Arrivals; A to Z
Andrews Living Arts Studios is a very small company, founded by retired teach Robert Nation.  A Fort Lauderdale native, Nation made his mark in South Jersey, where he led a legendary drama program at Cherry Hill East High School, garnering notice from the venerable Paper Mill Playhouse.  The company's mission is more to foster new talent, creating opportunities for actors to study and apply what they've learned in performance.  In essence, it's a Broward version of Actors' Workshop and Repertory Company.  They've been hampered with the failure of the Sun-Sentinel, which basically stopped covering theatre in 2010.

Empire Stage debuted in January with Making Porn, which received lukewarm reviews, but things warmed up for the company that took over the space formerly known as Sol.  It successfully has taken over the niche that it, um, took over.

Entr'Acte Theatrix began producing in rented spaces, including the Caldwell Theatre.

Slow Burn Theatre opened to strong reviews with Bat Boy, a continuing trend for the company.  Although currently a non-Equity company, the producers have long-term plans.

SoBe Arts opened to less-than glowing reviews for its Twelfth Night.  Artistic Director Carson Kievman inadvertently slighted the local talent pool, creating a tempest, but one as forgettable as the production.

South Florida Theater Review
launched, with Bill Hirschman filling the gaping void left by the Sun-Sentinel's utter failure to cover one of the most vibrant theatre scenes in the country.

When Zoetic Stage was announced, expectations were high, and the reviews for their debut production, South Beach Babylon led one review to state "expectations: fulfilled."

Florida Stage announced it would be relocating to the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.  This would not only lower their operating costs, it would also increase their seating and production space.

This came just a few weeks after Joe Adler was tapped to become the next artistic director at a Coconut Grove Playhouse reconstituted from GableStage and other resources.  No final date has been set.

Almost immediately, the venerable M Ensemble announced that it would abandone its long-time home in the wake of escalating operating costs.  They will continue to produce plays, however.  The first is slated for the new facility constructed by The Miami Light Project.

Palm Beach DramaWorks finally found a perfect place - the Cuillo Center, a few blocks away on West Palm Beach's Clematis Street.

While not a full move, Mad Cat mounted two shows at The Arsht Center; an updated version of Broadsword, and a co-production with the Arsht on Going Green the Wong Way.

Brian C. Smith (producer, actor, director)

Jennylin Duany (educator, theatre artist)

Mitchell Carey (actor),

Carol Provonsha, (actor, costumer)

The Hollywood Playhouse officially shut down, but had been dark for months.  Currently, it's reverted back to the bank, and if anyone is making an effort to acquire it, we haven't heard about it.  The good news; there's a deed restriction which states that the land can only be used by a theatre.

As noted above, the Cuillo Center for the Performing Arts officially ceased operating, opening the door for DramaWorks to move in.

Burt Reynolds' Under The Bridge Players, which a lot of people never really noticed, slipped just as quietly off The Scene.  Its most notable production was Michael McKeever in The Santaland Diaries, probably the best casting of the piece after its creator, David Sedaris.

Here's hoping for an even better 2011!

2010 Hapsters

[ERSTEIN,+HAP.jpg]Hap Erstein's Hapster Awards are back on The Palm Beach Post.  He notes Florida Stage's move to the Kravis Center, last minute cast changes at The Caldwell in two different shows, and what he considers the best performances of the year.

He didn't mention the best thing to happen to South Florida theatre this year: his return to the pages of The Palm Beach Post.

Whether or not you agree with his reviews, it's great that the Post recognizes the importance of having a qualified reviewer in a market with such a vibrant theatre scene.

Broward Center; Rock of Ages (4 reviews)

The national tour of Rock Of Ages opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on December 28, 2010.  That it opened is a miracle of collaboration; a significant number of the cast and crew were trapped by the blizzard that blanketed the northeast on Christmas Weekend.  But through perseverance, everyone was in place by Sound Check. arena-rock love story told through the mind-blowing, face-melting hits of JOURNEY, NIGHT RANGER, STYX, REO SPEEDWAGON, PAT BENATAR, TWISTED SISTER, POISON, ASIA, WHITESNAKE and many more. Don't miss this awesomely good time about dreaming big, playing loud and partying on!In 1987 on the Sunset Strip, a small town girl met a big city rocker and in LA's most famous rock club, they fell in love to the greatest songs of the 80s.
Kristin Hanggi directed a cast that included Constantine Maroulis, Rebecca Faulkenberry, MiG Ayesa, Nick Cordero, Patrick Lewallen, Teresa Stanley, Casey Tuma, and Travis Walker.  Choreography by Kelly Devine, set by Beowulf Boritt,  costumes by Gregory Gale, lighting by Jason Lyons, and sound design by Peter Hylenski.

J.W. Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
Maroulis is very likeable as the shy, lovestruck Drew. While he didn’t win “Idol,” he definitely carved out a niche as the rocker, and his talents are well served by this show. Faulkenberry also shines, providing a confident, polished compliment to the hard-edged rocker Maroulis becomes through the course of the show. Faulkenberry and Maroulis are supported by a strong supporting cast—all in comedic character roles—including Cordero and Lewallen, as well as Casey Tuma as a Birkenstock-wearing protester and MiG Ayesa as the outrageous lead singer of the band Arsenal. And, Travis Walker, portraying the European developer’s effete son brought the house down when asked if he was gay: “I’m not gaaaaaaaaay, I’m German!”
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
When the great-grandmother in row K stopped clapping to the music long enough to take her glow light out of her purse and wave it weakly in the air Tuesday night, you knew that Rock of Ages had succeeded in being the infectious, stupid fun that it aimed to be.
...the energy and enthusiasm infused in a production that never takes itself seriously for a nanosecond are inescapably contagious even if you never switched on a radio during the ‘80s.
...the high-octane cast that never seemed to be coasting, led by American Idol alumni Constantine Maroulis.

Surprise three is Maroulis. You can quibble with the Tony committee nominating him for best actor in a musical (2009 was a weak year) but the guy not only can sing, but he has an endearing puppy dog charm and a glow that says, “Thank you for letting me have the time of my life here.”
He is matched power ballad for power ballad by the sexy Faulkenberry who has a gorgeous rock voice...
They are backed up by a circus of strong singers, dancers and character actors including MiG Ayesa as a debauched rock star, who seems like a cross between Bret Michaels and Steve Tyler; Lewallen who breaks the fourth wall at will as narrator, and Travis Walker as an effeminate Eurotrash developer who insists he’s not gay, just German.
The truth is Rock of Ages has one goal only: to deliver a good time, and in that, it’s a @#$%&* success, man.
Laura Souto Laramee reviewed for The Palm Beach Post:
Constantine Maroulis aka Drew aka Wolfgang Von Colt and the incredibly talented cast of Rock of Ages bring sizzle to South Florida for the New Year at Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Tuesday’s opening-night performance... had the audience singing along to the decade’s best tunes, stomping their feet and waving makeshift lighters in the air (they hand you these with your Playbill).
Music critic Howard Cohen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The show cannily sends up the power-ballad decade with a batch of hard rock tunes mashed-up, frappéd and delivered with zest and surprising depth by a game cast including Season 4 American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis, who earned a Best Actor Tony Award nomination for his starring role in this show.
...director Kristin Hanggi assembles a fine cast, including plucky female lead, Rebecca Faulkenberry (Sherrie), who has a better voice for pop metal music than her Broadway counterpart.
This could all sink in a vat of Velveeta were it not for Chris D’Arienzo’s snappy script which mirrors and teases the decade it so obviously loves and Hanggi’s direction, which keeps everything moving at brisk space and wastes not an inch of stage space.

Maroulis is a particular revelation. He has the requisite leather-lungs to belt his way through songs with challenging choruses like Oh Sherrie and High Enough, and he transcends caricature and makes the audience fall for him through his mix of ambition, sweetness and charm.
Rock of Ages plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through January 9, 2010.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mondays Are Dark

Here's your final reading list for 2010; we'll be posting a year-in-review article later this week.

Rock into the New Year
Rock Of Ages opens at the Broward Center this week. The Palm Beach Post talks with Constantine Maroulis, an American Idol finalist performing in the show, The South Florida Theater Review interviews MiG Aysea about playing a rock star, while The Miami Herald gives us an overview of the whole show.

Coming 'Round
Miami Artzine interviews Sharon Gless, who stars in A Round Heeled Woman, opening this week at GableStageThe Miami Theater Examiner tells us there's a New Year's Eve special; you can toast the new year with actress Sharon Gless in the Biltmore Hotel's Prado Room after the show. But to really get insight; read her husband's blog.
I am hitting the word processor keys for this blog on Christmas night… just an hour or so before a quiet holiday dinner with my spouse, the ubiquitous Sharon Gless… As I do so she is having her assistant, Deb Mosk, drill dialogue into her head for A Round-Heeled Woman...
New Year's Party
The Shiny Sheet reports that Missy McArdle and her husband, Glen Rovinelli, will ring in the New Year in style at the Lake Worth Playhouse.  If you've missed McArdle's numerous star turns on the local theatre scene, you've missed some of the region's finest performances.

First Come. First See.
The South Florida Theater Review reports that Florida Stage has announced dates for its 1st Stage New Works Festival.  February  3-6, you'll have the opportunity to see staged readings of plays still in development.

Tardy Demerits for The Shiny Sheet
In what has to be a phenomenally late advance story, the Palm Beach Daily News has posted its advance story about Goldie, Max & Milk at Florida Stage - after the play opened, at a time you'd expect to see a review.  Adding insult to injury, they did the same thing with Freud's Last Session.  Jan, do try to keep up.  The advance stories come in advance of the opening;  that's why they are called advance stories.  We're at the review stage of coverage.  So get reviewing - we're not getting any younger.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Season's Greetings!

And just because we wouldn't want you to miss this unique South Florida experience, here's a link to Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny, a truly dreadful movie set in South Florida, featuring students from Ruth Foreman's Peter Pan Players:

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny 1/10

The movie is best enjoyed while drunk and/or heavily medicated, and possibly with the sound turned down so you can supply your own dialogue.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Scene for December 24, 2010

Sure, it's a big holiday weekend, but that doesn't stop the show.  Some
theatres will be dark on Christmas Eve, and some on Christmas day.  In my house, this would have filled the gap between when we put up the tree (that's right, it went up the 24th) and when Santa came to decorate it and leave gifts.  It would also have given my parents relief after a day of kids screaming with delight with all their new toys.

So here's what's happening on The Scene this Christmas weekend:


Yes, a show is actually opening this weekend: MAME will be opening Christmas Eve at the Stage Door Theatre.  If you need a little Christmas right this very minute, well, you won't have to wait.

you still haven't missed...

Goldie, Max, and Milk plays at Florida Stage through January 16.

Palm Beach Dramaworks presents Freud's Last Session through February 6, 2011.

The Stage Door Theatre presents A Taffetta Wedding  through January 16.

Laffing Matterz  serves up the laughs at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010.

passing through...

Forbidden Broadway plays the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through December 26.

Monty Python's Spamalot opens at the Kravis Center on December 26.

last chance to see...

Oliver! ends its run at Actors' Playhouse on December 26.

A Christmas Carol
  is playing at Empire Stage through December 25.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mondays are Dark

We're deep into the 2010-2011 Theatre Season now.  The end of the year is rushing at us; we've passed Hanukkah, with Christmas and Kwanzaa looming over us - not to mention the Winter Solstice.  It'll be next year before you know it.

Carbonells Ramping Up
The Carbonell Awards Organization has announced the 2011 Scholarship Competition has opened, with winners being announced at the awards ceremony in April.  Applications are solicited from regional high school drama teachers.  As if we needed any reminders, this is a clear sign that the season is moving along.

Filling the Freud Void
Read about the Palm Beach Dramaworks production of Freud's Last Session in the Palm Beach ArtsPaper, and The Shiny Sheet.  Reviews should be out soon.

A Debut and a Premiere
Margaret Ledford makes her Florida Stage debut as the director of the world premiere of Goldie, Max and MilkThe South Florida Gay News talks with Ledford,  and playwright Karen Hartman.   Ledford is best know for her work at The Promethean Theatre in Davie.

A Well-Rounded Production
You can see production stills from the upcoming GableStage production of A Round-Heeled Woman, starring Sharon Gless, by clicking here.  In addition to Ms. Gless (Cagney & Lacey, Burn Notice) the cast is rounded out with South Florida regulars: Antonia Amadeo, Steve Anthony, Howard Elfman, Kim Ostrenko, and Laura Turnbull.  You can find some pretty dry production information at

Lightning Strikes
The Heat Lightning saw South Beach Babylon, and finally got around to blogging about it.

Forbidden Pleasure
South Florida Theater Review reminds us that Forbidden Broadway is playing at the Arsht Center through December 26.

Busy Boy
Oliver Twist by night, and  Diabetes Awareness Spokesman between classes: The Miami Herald reports that Sammy Schecter leveraged his star turn in Oliver! at Actors' Playhouse to raise money to fight diabetes.

You Know, For the Kids goes over the children's theatre schedule at  Actors' Playhouse.

It's Like Spock with a Beard
In a bizarre twist, the Herald has no theater stories this week (Christine Dolen is on vacation), but the Sun-Sentinel actually published a theatre-related story one of its own staff wrote. 
Sadly, it's by fashion editor Rod Hagwood instead of someone who knows how to write a worthwhile theatre story.  So of course it's an utter piece of crap, but even I will concede that a crappy theater story is better than no theater story.  We can only imagine what we might have learned had anyone with a clue about theatre had written the story.  Or even someone who knows that "poser-thon" is not a word.

... in Miami, the Olympia Theatre is up a creek, according to Miami Today News.
... in Palm Beach, the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed, according to the Palm Beach Daily News.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stage Door Theatre: A Taffeta Wedding (reviews)

The Stage Door Theater opened its production of A Taffeta Wedding on December 3, 2010.
It’s 1964 & wedding bells are ringing for our favorite singing sisters, The Taffetas — and YOU're invited as they & their crooning beaus, The Cardigans, swoon and sway to favorite '50s and '60s pop tunes like Who’s Sorry Now, Sincerely and many more  in this nostalgically fun premiere musical about gals and the guys they love, written by Rick Lewis, creator of The Taffetas and A Taffeta Christmas.
Arthur Whitehead directed  a cast that included John Debkowski, Meredith Bartmon, Matt Falber, Rebecca Cesario, Garrett Bruce, Emily Senn, Andrew Oberstein, Chloe Golden Cheyenn Lentz.  Musical direction by Sergio J. Puig, and Musical Staging (choreography?) by Michael Leeds.

Mary Damiano reviewed for The South Florida Theatre Review:
If you’re in the mood for a stroll down a musical memory lane... A Taffeta Wedding, is right up your alley.
It’s hardly worth noting the characters’ names or the performers’ names, because the creators didn’t bother to give them much individuality. The Taffetas, in their pastel color dresses, look like four Jordan almonds in bad wigs. Each Cardigan wears a shirt and shoes that match their Taffeta’s dress...
There are two ingredients that make this corn palatable. The first is that the performers harmonize beautifully. Voices blend into lilting melodies that do justice to the songs, especially The Taffetas... The second is that the show’s creator, Rick Lewis, has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. He’s not afraid of poking pun at the naïveté and gender stereotypes associated with the 1950s.
The most delightful moment... comes courtesy of Cheyenne Lentz... a sweet-voiced tap-dancing dynamo, who exhibits more personality in her rendition of Botch-a-Me than all the Taffetas and Cardigans combined, and practically stopped the show at the Saturday matinee performance.
Roger Martin Reviewed for
You can sashay out there and catch A Taffeta Wedding and bam, you're back in the fifties and sixties...  And even if you weren't around then it behooves you to catch A Taffeta Wedding for a little musical education.  It won't hurt.  Promise.
This is a small show, very professionally mounted and, ultimately, simply charming.
A Taffeta Wedding plays at The Stage Door Theatre through January 16, 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Going Mobile

You'll be happy to know that we now have a mobile version of The Scene running. And the best part?  You don't have to do anything; if you're coming to The Scene on your mobile, you'll automatically be routed to the mobile version of the site.

Thanks, Google!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Scene for December 17, 2010.

We're flying on towards the end of 2010, but the theatre scene in South Florida is going strong, no matter how cold it gets.

And don't let your friends and relations in the hinterlands claim otherwise; if you can see your breath, it's cold.

But here's what's heating ups stages across South Florida;


Goldie, Max, and Milk opens at Florida Stage, where it will run through January 16.

Palm Beach Dramaworks presents Freud's Last Session, through February 6, 2011.

you still haven't missed...

The Stage Door Theatre presents A Taffetta Wedding  through January 16.

Oliver! plays at Actors' Playhouse through December 26.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010

A Christmas Carol  is playing at Empire Stage through December 25. I believe this is a one-man version.

passing through...

Broward Center presents My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish, and I'm Home for the Holidays in the intimate Amaturo Theater through December 19.

Meanwhile, CATS graces the Broward Center's Au Rene Theater through December 19.

Forbidden Broadway plays the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through December 26.

last chance to see...

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre production of Academy, a musical created by the Jupiter's artistic direct, Andrew Cato, and John Mercutio, closes Sunday, December 19.

Fizz ends its run at the New Theatre on December 19.

for kids...

Actors' Playhouse presents A Christmas Carol - the Musical, through December 20.

The Playground Theatre presents Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, through December 19, 2010.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Maltz Jupiter Theater: Academy (reviews)

Academy is a creation of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre; artistic director Andrew Cato and longtime friend John Mercutio workshopped in Jupiter two years ago, then took it to the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and later to South Korea.  They opened the fully realized production in Jupiter on December 7, 2010.
At St. Edward's Academy, two seniors make a harmless bet on whether they can influence an unsuspecting freshman to break a few rules to succeed. But when the transaction goes recklessly out of control, the boysbecome entangled in a fight for their own academic and personal
survival.  Inspired by Goethe's Faust, Academy is a pop chamber musical about boys learning to become men - and remaining true to themselves
Andrew Cato directed a cast that included Antonio Addeo, Riley Anthony, Calvin Bankert, Corey Boardman, Wilson Bridges, Jason Edward Cook, Kevin Connor, Lanardo Davis, Michael Haynie, Cameron Jackson, Branden Leonhardt, Mitch McCarrell, Andy Mientus, Alberto Rosende, Matthew roscoe, Aaron Riesebeck, Connor Saccal, Stephen Santana, Nathan Ward, Nicky Wood, and Alex Wyse. Choreography by Joshua Rhoede, musical direction by Alexander Rovang.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mondays are Dark

Hope you're keeping warm in this sudden cold snap; and I hope you enjoyed the beautiful weekend.  Mosiac's Richard Jay Simon got married, making the best use of the day.  Congratulations, Richard and Dyani.

Here's your Monday Reading List.

Holiday House
A reminder that Conundrum Stages' Holiday House is tomorrow, Tuesday December 14.

Sometimes They Come Back
The Miami Herald reports that Judy Drucker is back - back in charge of Concert Association of Florida, and producing classical concerts.  While not on topic for this blog, we thought it worth noting that this South Florida legend has returned to the company she created after being ousted several years ago.  CAF floundered without her, and lost its pre-eminent position as an Arsht Center resident company.

In an odd tangent that fits the topic if not the subject, the Arsht Center POV tells us about South Floridians who have returned to grace the Arsht Center stage.

CATS and Nutcrackers and Steve Solomon, Oh My
The South Florida Sun warns us that CATS is coming back, informs us that The Nutcracker is playing all over the place, and heralds the return of Steve Solomon in his one hander My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish and I'm Home for the Holidays. Last year, Solomon had to cancel the show due to illness after only one performance, but he's back on his game.

Speaking of CATS
BroadwayWorld has details about CATS at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

The Ninth-and-half Ring
South Florida Theater Review turns a critical eye to certain theater patrons:
If Sartre was right in No Exit and hell is other people, the next circle of hell would be a theater with rude people.

We're Necessary
The Playgoer shares recent comments made by President Obama at the Kennedy Center..

BroadwayWorld reports that Whoopi Goldberg will be playing one night at the Arsht Center in Miami.

Non-Profit Arts Explained. Ouch
Parabasis found a video that shows a common problem for not-for-profit performing arts organizations.

Master Class in Broward
BroadwayWorld reports that the Broward Center is hosting a voice class taught by two time Tony Award nominee Gavin Creel (Thoroughly Modern Millie, HAIR, Mary Poppins, La Cage Aux Folles)

Fall of the House of (an) Usher
TILES shares the story of a Mosaic Theatre volunteer who lost everything to a house fire.
Perhaps you also saw the news report.  I heard a very familiar voice and looked up to see that two of our ushers were indeed in trouble. Their home was decimated by a fire and their beloved dog killed.  You can see a video here or read the Sun-Sentinel article here.   This story tears at my heart.
Going to the Dogs
1st Draft reports that there may be a canine conspiracy afoot (apaw?) at Florida Stage.

... we could lose the Cocnut Grove Playhouse. Miami Today News reports that Miami City Commissioner is working against theatre in Coconut Grove by getting into bed with Sony.  Mr. Sarnoff apparently knows less about concert promotion than theatre, otherwise he would note that an existing facility concentrating on music - LiveNation's Fillmore at the Gleason Center - is far from successful.  But let's say Sony is able to make it work; it's still a bad deal for South Florida arts.

Here's the thing about partnering with multi-national corporate conglomerates; they don't care about anything outside of their own profits.  Sarnoff naively states that Sony would "make room" for GableStage, while the reality is that Sony is more likely to build the facilities to suit their own needs, and quietly find a way to crush small local distractions such as GableStage. One need only research what casino gambling did to local business in Atlantic City to grasp the dynamic: the year before gambling was approved, there were 3,500 independently owned business in A.C. - as of 2005, there were only 1,388.  Big corporations don't want any money going into small local businesses; they want it for themselves.

Consider; Sony didn't approach the existing board of the Playhouse, and they didn't approach Joe Adler.  They went to the county government, and you don't do that if you're planning on interfacing with local arts groups.

Mark Sarnoff is now the single greatest threat to the Coconut Grove Playhouse as a proper theater.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Scene for December 10, 2010

Well, cold season is upon us, and between fighting colds and staging shows, we missed seeing shows, putting out this past Monday's column, not one but two Christmas Holiday parties, and were pretty late getting some reviews up.  But thanks to copious amounts of Ny-Quil, Vitamin C, Echineaca, and hot tea with whiskey (We're pretty sure that the tea & whiskey did more than the rest of it), we're back on our feet. 

And if you're still looking for Holiday parties, Conundrum Stages is putting up their Holiday House on Tuesday, December 14.


The Maltz Jupiter Theatre opens Academy, a musical created by the Jupiter's artistic direct, Andrew Cato, and John Mercutio.  Through December 19.

you still haven't missed...

The Stage Door Theatre presents A Taffetta Wedding  through January 16.

Fizz opens at the New Theatre, and runs through December 19.

Oliver! plays at Actors' Playhouse through December 26.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010

passing through...

The Irish Theatre of Florida presents Joseph O'Connor's Red Roses & Petrol, through Sunday, at the Bienes Center for the Arts.

The Arsht Center presents Forbidden Broadway, trough December 26.

last chance to see...

Zoetic Stage winds up its brief debut run of South Beach Babylon at the Arsht Center this Sunday, December 12. The critics are raving about this one!

VICES: A Love Story returns to the Caldwell Theatre through December 12.  This show was a summer sensation for the company two years ago, but many of the theatre's snowbird subscribers missed it.

The Rising Action Theatre presents The Boys in the Band at The Sunshine Cathedral through December 12, 2010.

for kids...

Actors' Playhouse presents A Christmas Carol - the Musical, through December 20.

The Playground Theatre presents Alice in Wonderland, through December 19, 2010.

Madeline's Christmas plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday, December 12.  Saturday is Family Fun Day!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Zoetic Stage: South Beach Babylon (4 reviews)

Zoetic Stage made its debut at the Arsht Center with the world premiere of South Beach Babylon on December 2, 2010.
South Beach Babylon explores the hopes and ambitions of five South Beach artists in the weeks leading up to Art Basel. A fascinating look at what it takes to create art without selling one's soul in contemporary America. McKeever is South Florida's most produced playwright. His plays have been seen extensively throughout South Florida, America, and Europe.
Stuart Meltzer directed a cast that included Stephen G. Anthony, Michael McKeever, Elena Maria Garcia, and Erik Fabregat.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Playwright Michael McKeever explores South Florida's art world and the different artists who work in it in South Beach Babylon, a crackling world premiere comedy launching Miami's newest theater company, Zoetic Stage, in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
(McKeever) has come up with a collection of vividly rendered characters, some tailored to the talents of the actors originating them. That's part of Zoetic's deal: playwrights creating work for an ongoing company, something that can help the troupe claim a distinctive place in South Florida's theater landscape.
...Babylon is structured as a memory piece, the memories belonging to the young artist, Jonas Blodgen (Andrew Rosenberg). But at least in this first production, Jonas is almost a tangential figure. That's partially because the script needs trimming and another rewrite or two, partially because the fabulously funny Elena Maria Garcia sashays away with the show.
Stephen G. Anthony is caustic yet charismatic as photographer Tony Everette... as (sometimes topless) model Lennox Montel, the striking Amy McKenna makes vapidity amusing.
Thanks to Zoetic artistic director Stuart Meltzer's fluid staging, Jeff Quinn's abstract set design, Travis Neff's gracefully astute lighting and Alberto Arroyo's character-defining costumes, South Beach Babylon has a style and look befitting its subject. Dancer-choreographers Rosie Herrera and Octavio Campos deliver the play's striking performance art piece, a scathing commentary on artistic exploitation.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the South Florida Theater Review:
The premiere of South Beach Babylon Friday at the Arsht Center wasn’t a promising debut as the inaugural offering from Zoetic Stage—it was a promise fulfilled.

Credit Meltzer and the actors for lushly embroidering the dialogue with physical movements and tiny curlicues that spice up delightfully fresh line readings.

And no one excels at this like South Florida’s funniest comic actress, Elena Maria Garcia, who uses contemptuous snorts, patronizing sighs and arched eyebrows to
punctuate every sentence in her standout performance as a cannibalistic
juggernaut of a superagent/facilitator.
While (all the characters) sound like “types,” McKeever’s repartee, Meltzer’s direction and the cast’s earnestness make each three-dimensional characters rather than chess pieces for a playwright.
Additionally, you have to love a show that makes vicious fun of artists’ pretentious “explanations” of what a piece of art means, riffs that you’ve always suspected are utter horse manure.
Someone also might argue that there is no revelatory epiphany here (“Commercial-driven compromise poisons art”) to support a full evening, but McKeever takes us on a tour of a world of the sublime and the ridiculous populated with quirky Wonderland-like denizens.

And if you’ve heard it all before, it’s doubtful you’ve heard it expressed so entertainingly or with such love and wonder.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Although you won't actually see any flaming babies on stage at Zoetic's South Beach Babylon, they do get talked about a lot along with barbed wire and a girl getting intensely personal with herself.

But what you will see are bare boobies (only two), hilarious knock-offs of Romero Britto's art, and the vainglorious machinations of artists with an e and the enablers who mishandle them.
All... roles are well cast and well played, but the crown has to go to Elena Maria Garcia as Semira Mann, the manic event planner. It's not that she's a better
actor than the others, and they're all good, it's just that she's born
to this role. She'd steal scenes from a blind baby and a three legged
dog and absolutely revel in it. And she's fascinating and very damn
Smoothly directed by Stuart Meltzer, this show has many more highs than lows, and the highest has to be The Performance Piece danced by Octavio Campos and Rosie Herrera. Choreographed by Herrera in collaboration with Campos, it's clever, it's funny and performed with such talent and vigor that it dimmed the lights of the Merce Cunningham troupe that had performed just an hour before in the main auditorium.
It's first time out of the box for Zoetic Stage, and South Beach Babylon comes gift wrapped and tied with a big red ribbon.
Mary Damiano reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
McKeever, who is also a successful artist, has explored the art world before in his plays, most recently his 2006 drama The Impressionists. In that play, the focus was on artists, including Renoir and Monet, who challenged the established art community with their impressionistic paintings, which were considered radical at the time.

In South Beach Babylon, McKeever focuses on art as big business as opposed to art for art’s sake.
The performances in South Beach Babylon are top notch. Anthony is understated and charismatic, never resorting to stereotype. McKeever is funny and earnest. McKenna embodies the image of empty-headed elitism. Octavio Campos and Rosie Herrera dance a provocative performance piece which serves as a statement on the commercialism of art.

But Garcia steals the show. Her Semira is a shark other sharks would fear, a pretentious, tactless snob who fancies herself queen of taste and trends in South Beach. Semira is monstrous, but in Garcia’s hands, this evil whirlwind in a red dress is nothing short of delicious.
...South Beach Babylon is an entertaining play, marked by McKeever’s trademark wit and insight.
The Zoetic Stage production of South Beach Babylon plays at the Arsht Center through December 12, 2010.

New Theatre: FIZZ (3 reviews)

New Theatre opened the southeaster premiere of Rogelio Martinez's FIZZ on December 3, 2010.
Gun-toting Southern belles, cocaine-loving Rockettes, and insane soda execs all take part in this based-on-a-true-story comedy about one of history's biggest flops - the creation of New Coke. At the same time it examines the meteoric rise of Roberto Goizueta, as the first Cuban American to head a major American company. This play advances this season's theme of overcoming adversity and examines issues of immigration, the Cuban experience, and corporate America at its most bizarre.
Ricky Martinez directed a cast that included Carlos Orizindo, Bill Schwartz , Francesca Toledo, Aubrey Shavonn, Tara Vodihn, Ozzie Quintana, Andrew Wind and Scott Douglas Wilson.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami
It seems like a great idea.   A play about the true story of a Cuban immigrant who rose to be the head of Coca Cola.   Add that he introduced Diet Coke (hooray) and New Coke (boo hiss)... but it's a mess and that isn't solely the fault of New Theatre...
Carlos Orizondo as Roberto the Cuban chemist who fell in love with Coke as a boy and ultimately lived his dream has some good moments but these opportunities are seldom as the play veers wildly between the serious let's all hate the foreigner message and the slapstick characters who want their old Coke back. 
It's an eight person cast playing thirty-seven different roles including three reporters, three Rockettes, six shoppers and four protesters.  Plus nine characters appearing on a video screen.  It's wig and mustache heaven and it's all too much.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the South Florida Theater Review:
Fizz is a jarring mélange of intriguing, even entertaining elements that simply did not mesh in Saturday’s production of Rogelio Martinez’s script under Ricky Jay Martinez’s direction.
...Fizz juxtaposes scenes of very real human conflict with bizarre flights of the surreal. There are wry and relevant observations in these over-the-top scenes, but they don’t fit in with the rest of the play. The overall effect is that is that of a mess. Some playgoers might even argue they could be excised without hurting the main story.

It’s frustrating because some of the individual elements work beautifully. For instance, Goizueta’s speeches to the audience (ostensibly immigrants at a naturalization ceremony) are simultaneously wry, insightful and ultimately moving.
The strongest single element is the performance of Carlos Orizondo under Martinez’s direction. Carefully coifed, dressed in a double-breasted suit and blessed with a gleaming smile, Orizondo makes Goizueta a handsome, earnest, charismatic man who has embraced the American Dream and is puzzled why this country has not returned his unquestioning devotion. Orizondo single-handedly grounds the play and holds it together.
His cast mates... must play numerous roles, donning intentionally false moustaches and falser voices in the Wonderland scenes. Some of the characterizations work, but most are less believable than the denizens of a Roadrunner cartoon, but that might be intentional.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
What does Coca-Cola have to say about America — the immigrant experience, globalization, progress versus tradition, gods versus science? ...In Fizz, Martinez initially seeks an answer, penning a dazzling and bizarre first act before losing his nerve when confronted with some of playwriting's more banal challenges, such as resolution of plot and creation of credible antagonists (to name two that give him particular trouble). In what appears to be minor creative panic, Martinez downgrades the entire venture to a conventional comedy with a big-hearted American moral.
Carlos Orizondo, along with Bill Schwartz (who plays Goizueta's number two, a character loosely based on Donald R. Keogh), serve as charming, sturdy straight-men, flabbergasted by the American spectacle parading across the stage...
...the ensemble brings to life a whole zoo of characters, presented with a broad intensity that seems equal parts sketch-comedy and, weird as it sounds, modern dance. They're having a lot of fun with this show, and it shows. Vodihn's coked-out Rockette is un-bucking-felievable — we laugh so hard, and for so long, we almost drown out the next scene. And Andrew Wind's two-minute performance as an actor playing a deranged Southern Coke-drinker for a Pepsi commercial literally stops the show when the audience doesn't stop applauding.
Two people from Fizz stick in this writer's brain more than anyone else. The first is director Ricky J. Martinez. In a video interlude early in the play, he portrays both a redneck and druggie... He's fabulous, and I'd like him to act more. Martinez's talents as director are considerable — especially in a play like this one, which relies on whizz-bang showpieces rather than sustained mood-building...
The second is Aubrey Shavonn. I was annoyed by her performance in In Development last year, and I now assign blame entirely to that show's turgid script. Here, she glitters. She is an object of vivacious hilarity when she's a wronged, gun-toting Coke fan. She also projects a sweet, subtle pathos in her quieter moments...
FIZZ plays at the New Theatre through December 19, 2010.

Actors' Playhouse: Oliver! (5 reviews)

The Actors' Playhouse production of the musical Oliver! opened on November 19, 2010, after previews on November 17 and 18.
One of the most beloved musicals of all time, Oliver! vividly brings to life Charles Dickens' timeless characters with its ever-popular story of the boy who asked for more. With a cast and orchestra of over 50, the sensational score is full of Lionel Bart's irresistible songs including Food Glorious Food, Consider Yourself, You've Got to Pick-a-Pocket or Two, I'd Do Anything, Oom Pah Pah, As Long As He Needs Me and many more. The winner of two Tony Awards, Oliver! has played in 22 languages worldwide and is sure to be a holiday treat for the whole family.
Daivd Arisco directed a cast that included Cruz Santiago, Sammy Schecter, Tyler Flanzer, Kyle Christensen, Amy Miller Brennan, Shane Tanner, Gary Marachek, Ken Clement, and Elizabeth Dimon.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
There are plenty of good reasons to see David Arisco's production of Oliver! at Actor's Playhouse, the most obvious being that the play finds the director returning to his natural habitat — the classic, conservative musical — and kicking all kinds of ass. Arisco is a wizard with a show like Oliver!, allowing each actor on his over-stuffed stage plenty of room to breathe, individuate, steal scenes, and chew scenery at will. The characters pop; the scenes pop; everything is as vibrant as Dickens's London underworld allows...
...among this production's many charms is Tyler Flanzer, the shockingly talented 12-year-old playing the Artful Dodger on alternating nights. (Kyle Christensen takes the other nights, and I hear he's good, too.)...Flanzer's characterization is full of small, seemingly thoughtless details. It's a subtle, adult performance. I hope the kid has an agent.
Thanks to Ariscos's early and persuasive casting... Oliver! is a veritable who's-who of South Florida's actorly who's-who's. Elizabeth Dimon and Ken Clement, as Widow Corney and Mr. Bumble, have good, naughty fun singing "I Shall Scream." Mark A. Harmon and Maribeth Graham, as undertakers Mr. and Mrs. Sowberry, sing and dance like fantasian skeletons. Amy Miller Brennan busts a lung as the busty, tragically co-dependent Nancy. And Gary Marachek, as Fagin, dances away with the show.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Cruz M. Santiago (Oliver) has the singing voice of an angel and the polished musicianship of an adult. Each of his songs are performed strongly enough to stand on their own, even outside the context of the show... his attention to finding the most of the meaning of each song is remarkable. Ken Clement (Mr. Bumble) is never better than when perfectly paired with Elizabeth Dimon (Widow Corney). They are delightful character actors. Gary Marachek's performance as Fagin bears much similarity to his previous Actors' Playhouse performance as Thenardier in Les Miserables. The difference is that his Thenardier is overtly foul and sexual, while his Fagin is non-specifically creepy. The fact that we cannot predict his reactions and his motivation makes the possibilities vastly more interesting. His "Reviewing The Situation" clearly demonstrates how much he enjoys playing these characters we love to hate.
Shane R. Tannner is menacing as Bill Sikes. His normally resonant baritone sound is admirably disguised with a harsh, growl of a voice that evokes appropriate fear.
Amy Miller Brennan (Nancy) sings the song "As Long As He Needs Me" beautifully, but is in need of staging help. The script regrettably does little to make that moment in the show logical or organic... Standing center stage in a spotlight makes the song feel even more disconnected. It comes off like a number in a cabaret act, and frankly, her talented vocals deserve more thought to staging.
...this production of Oliver! is worth seeing for its wonderful character actor moments and well sung renditions of familiar songs such as "Where Is Love", "Consider Yourself", "I'd Do Anything", "Oom-Pah-Pah" and "Food Glorious Food."
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
...the sixteen Workhouse Boys and “Food, Glorious Food” have opened the show. Ken Clement and Elizabeth Dimon as Mr Bumble and Widow Corney follow with “Oliver,” “I Shall Scream” and “Boy For Sale,” Just great. Then there's “That's Your Funeral” with Mark A. Harmon and Maribeth Graham. Delightful. And we're all set for a wonderful evening of Lionel Bart's classic of 1850's London.

But somewhere along the way, towards the end of the first act, when we're in the Thieves Kitchen, things start to go flat. The veteran Gary Marachak is the star of the show as Fagin and when he speaks his first lines to Oliver my first thought is “My God, I didn't know Fagin was a paedophile.” Marachak is an interesting actor, too interesting at times. You want to follow all his little tricks and perhaps it's these tricks that slow things down.

But he did have dirty teeth. The only one of the 1850s slum dwelling thieves, prostitutes and ragamuffins who didn't have bright, shiny choppers and in the case of the women, all but Jeni Hacker had impeccable modern day make-up. A small thing, perhaps, but watching the impressive Shane Tanner as grimy Bill Sykes as he sang “My Name” and brutalized all in sight, I fell in love with his beautiful white teeth.
Big musicals are the thing with Actors' Playhouse. They do them often and they do them well. Huge casts, great sets and costumes, wonderful singers and dancers, live music are the stuff of this theatre. And Oliver! is no exception. But when there's no singing or dancing the show loses its drive, and that's a shame, for otherwise there's a lot of pleasure in this piece.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...just as the company did with its impressive versions of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Les Misérables and Miss Saigon, Actors' has thrown its considerable creative resources at Oliver!, trying to make Lionel Bart's old-fashioned 1960 musical sparkle anew.

At times, director David Arisco, his collaborators and a talented cast turn Bart's take on Charles Dickens' 1838 novel Oliver Twist into just that: a multifacted gem.
Cruz Santiago, one of the two boys playing the orphaned Oliver Twist (the other is Sammy Schechter), has an exquisite, pure, high voice, and his Where Is Love? would melt the hardest heart. Likewise, Amy Miller Brennan beautifully explores the complex, contradictory emotions of As Long as He Needs Me, Nancy's declaration of loyalty to her abusive lover Bill Sikes (Shane R. Tanner).
You would expect multiple-Carbonell-Award-winner Gary Marachek to do a bang-up comic job with Fagin's Reviewing the Situation, and he does (though the low, growling speaking style he uses too often turns his dialogue into barely comprehensible mush). And as Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney, Ken Clement and Elizabeth Dimon make grand comic hay of I Shall Scream.
Even so, flaws in the show itself and in a production that feels bloated keep Oliver! from reaching the level of excellence Actors' achieved with its Les Miz... f you've seen the best work at Actors', if you appreciate the way musicals have evolved since 1960, you may feel more like another Dickens character. For every ``bravo'' this cast earns, there's a ``bah, humbug'' right behind it.
Bill Hirschman wrote for South Florida Theater Review:
The Actors’ Playhouse production of Oliver! has most of the right individual elements and some moments worked moderately well. If all you want is a scrapbook of beloved tunes delivered with enough talent to make you recall better productions, you’ll be satisfied. But this version was never as moving or as transporting as it should have been.
With a few exceptions, the casting is marvelous. Veteran Gary Marachek slips into the role of the lovable rogue Fagin as smoothly as he dons his ragtag coat because it is one of the few roles in musical theater where a carefully calibrated amount of skilled mugging and scenery-chewing is encouraged. Marachek, with his expressive eyes, arching eyebrows and leering grin, is proven royalty in that country. What’s missing here is the pathos that engenders sympathy when events turn against him.
Equally skilled are Ken Clement and Elizabeth Dimon as the beadle and the widow who run the workhouse. In addition to being able singers, these pros have fine-tuned comedy chops...
Amy Miller Brennan brings a lovely voice and an earthy beauty to the  soiled dove, Nancy. The musical director unfortunately allowed her to freely reinterpret the classic As Long As He Needs Me in a way that interrupted the crucial flow of this straight-ahead power ballad.
Shane R. Tanner, who like Clement has played his role before, was such a convincing bully as Bill Sikes that he’ll likely cause a few nightmares among the younger audience members.

On opening night, Oliver was played by Cruz M. Santiago, a sweet-looking boy with a smooth angelic voice. Kyle Christensen’s Artful Dodger was cute but needs to summon up more energy and animation.
The intangible problems start with the tone. There was no sense of poor little Oliver being thrust in a menacing, ever-darkening underworld, and therefore, no sense of exultant relief when Oliver is rescued.
There’s also the pacing. The opening depends on a rousing rendition of Food Glorious Food. But in a crippling tradeoff, the song has been slowed down so that the orphans can navigate the difficult words. Yet, the final ten minutes of the show is rushed through with crucial plot resolutions smashed together like a pileup on I-95.
But the real problem is the lack of discernible emotional transitions between the spoken scenes and songs, or even between two songs.
Oliver! plays at Actors Playhouse through December 26, 2010.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Scene for December 3, 2010

'Tis the season, and some of us are busy busy busy, which is why we're a little late with this week's Scene.  How did it get to be December so quickly?


Zoetic Stage makes its debut at the Arsht Center with the world premiere of South Beach Babylon, which plays through December 12.

The Stage Door Theatre opens A Taffetta Wedding - which is not Snoopy at all - through January 16.

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre opens Academy, a musical created by the Jupiter's artistic direct, Andrew Cato, and John Mercutio.  Through December 19.

Fizz opens at the New Theatre, and runs through December 19.

you still haven't missed...

Oliver! plays at Actors' Playhouse through December 26.

VICES: A Love Story returns to the Caldwell Theatre through
December 12.  This show was a summer sensation for the company two
years ago, but many of the theatre's snowbird subscribers missed it.

The Rising Action Theatre presents The Boys in the Band at The Sunshine Cathedral through December 12, 2010.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010

passing through...

Leslie Jordan struts his stuff in his new show, Deck Them Halls, Y'all, playing at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, December 5.  One night only!

Covenant House presents A Night Of Broadway Stars at the Broward Center on Friday; it's fundraising event, and includes a silent auction.  The show is an adaptation of Neil Berg's 101 years of Broadway.

last chance to see...

The critically acclaimed production of Collected Stories plays at Mosaic Theatre through December 5.

Stage Door Theatre's  production of On The Town plays through December 5, 2010.

for kids...
Actors' Playhouse presents A Christmas Carol, the Musical, through December 20.

The Playground Theatre presents Alice in Wonderland, through December 19, 2010.