Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Scene for August 26, 2011

Fortunately, Hurricane Irene has decided to bypass us and is headed off to rain down on Broadway this weekend, which means that the first week of school wasn't interrupted by the storm.  Sorry, kids.  Yay mom & dad!

In the meantime, here are this week's offerings of live theatre-


Ron Mangravite's adaptation of Shakespeare' Henry V opens at The New Theatre, through September 10.

you still haven't missed...

Promethean Theatre presents Song of the Living Dead through September 10, 2011.

Mad Cat Theatre Company's production of So My Grandmother Died blah blah blah plays at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through September 10, 2011.

Six Years plays at The Caldwell Theatre through September 4, 2011.

Andrews Living Arts Studio presents Angels In America Part 1 through September 4. 

Stage Door Theatre kicks off its Miami Beach series with SUDS; the Rocking 60's Musical.  It runs through September 4, 2011 at the Byron Carlyle Theater.  If the title sounds vaguely familiar, it's because they ran it last year.

last chance to see...

Chitterling Heights winds up is run at The Women's Theatre Project on August 28, 2011.

passing through...
Mommie Queerest finishes its limited engagement at Empire Stage this Sunday, August 28, 2011.

for kids...

Sol Children's Troupe offers The Marvelous Land of Oz through August 28, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Promethean Theater: Song of the Living Dead (5 reviews)

The Promethean Theatre opened its production of the musical Song of the Living Dead, a Zombie Musical on August 19, 2011.
The show follows the classic love story of a young couple. While out together running some errands and enjoying their newly-engaged bliss, the sweethearts unwittingly stumble into a full-fledged zombie attack.  What follows is a musically accompanied account of the skin crawling, zombie fighting, brain craving mayhem and a true testament to the couple's "Undying Love." Named Creative Loafing Readers' Pick for Best Theater Premiere & Best Play in Atlanta. The Promethean Theatre is the first theatre outside of Dad's Garage to produce this play.
Margaret Ledford directed a cast that included Clay Cartland, Robert Coward, Mark Della Ventura, Lindsey Forgey, Mary Gundlach, Jaimie Kautzmann, Christopher A. Kent, Noah Levine, Joshua Olivares, and Sharyn Peoples.

John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Sharyn Peoples has a nice, light comic touch in her performance as Peggy, and is cute in her song of self-deprecation, "Socially Retarded." She is balanced well with the broader comedic style of Lindsey Elizabeth Forgey as Judith. Forgey's is at her best in the song "Eat Me."
Clay Courtland is indeed "awesome" in his over-the-top portrayal of the arrogant, rogue commando, Harry Hardman, as exemplified in his song "I'm Fucking Awesome." He doesn't seem to miss a comic opportunity. He and Christopher A. Kent as George give the strongest performances in the show...
Without a doubt, Song of the Living Dead, a Zombie Musical is a coarse and silly, irreverent spoof of all that is zombie. Though the show does not contain the extensive effects used in their similar production of Evil Dead: The Musical, the effects that are here (lots of blood packs) all go off without a hitch. It is a production amusing enough to have you half-smiling through most of the show (though I could have done without the singing Zombie Fetus).
John Thomason reviewed for The Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
...the Promethean may be the only company in South Florida that could have pulled it off. Director Margaret Ledford and Producing Artistic Director Deborah L. Sherman have become veterans of exactly this brand of bloody, pop-smart, youthcentric musical theater for people who don't like musicals. Their Song of the Living Dead proceeds with seeming effortlessness and copious amounts of red paint and TLC. This is one of those rare, miraculous shows that gets everything right...
The show is performed by a cast that couldn't be more attuned to the exaggerated zombie-movie archetypes they portray... Clay Cartland is a scene-stealing dynamo as Harry Hardman, a maniacal, sex-addicted corporate CEO...
As Rev. Seabrook... Noah Levine is the cast's most natural comedian, generating laughs with facial expressions alone. Mark Della Ventura is hilarious in three roles, the best of which is a gay crime-fighting Orthodox Jew, and Jaimie Kautzmann is an arresting supporting player who resembles a tween Rachel Maddow in her signature role as a zombie kid.
The song list is not included in the Promethean's program so as to protect the element of surprise. Indeed, Song of the Living Dead is a show best approached with little knowledge of the story — just go and witness a flawless ensemble overtaken with the sheer joy of performing.
J. W. Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
Song is many things. It’s silly, raunchy, gross and even more than a little gay. And, like the other shows, if you’re seated in the first two rows, the so-called “splatter zone,” watch out because there’s lots of blood and other simulated bodily fluids and you will be a target. Don’t worry though you will be provided with a plastic sheet for protection. Most importantly, the show is fun.
As with most campy parodies, a show like Song can be really good or really bad. Fortunately, Director Margaret Ledford has staged the best possible production.

Kent... offers a flawless performance, matched by Peoples’ hapless Peggy and the instantaneous transformation by Levine during the hilarious and definitely unexpected musical number, Gays for Jesus.

But, it’s the brilliant performance by newcomer Clay Courtland as evil businessman Harry Hardman that steals the show.
The actors are backed by creative work from sound designer Matt Corey, lighting designer Patrick Tennant and cartoon-like set by Daniel Gelbmann. A clever backlit screen shows old zombie movies before the show and then is used as a key element of the action thanks to a number of original videos and graphics.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Audience members who aren’t put off by foul language, frequent blood spatters, gross-out moments such as eating dead bodies, extreme irreverence in the religious sense, sophomoric humor, cheesy lyrics married to peppy showtunes are certain to come out of The Promethean Theatre’s Song of the Living Dead satiated with two hours of dumb mindless fun.
What keeps the show afloat are the energetic performances from an uniformly game (not gamy) cast, the comic touches from director Margaret M. Ledford and the intentionally dopey choreography by Chrissi Arditto. Special credit goes to Christopher Kent who stepped in last Tuesday for the ailing Matthew William Chizever.
Even the ensemble throw themselves unreservedly into the silliness – and multiple roles, especially Mark Della Ventura and Joshua Oliveras who portray a gay couple composed of a Jew and an Indian (the New Dehli variety).
Best of all is Noah Levine as a detestably hypocritical Jimmy Swaggart-like preacher who extols Jesus at the same moment he is excoriates anyone who isn’t white, straight and Christian. He exudes that slimy revivalist charisma with joyous abandon...
...Promethean has brought in some talented folks to work behind the scenes. Notable among them is costumer Ellis Tillman who chose everything from George’s horrid plaid pants and white belt to Hardman’s Rambo outfit with “muscles” sewn into the sleeves. The four-piece band is ably led by Phil Hinton.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Song of the Living Dead, a Zombie Musical is silly, funny, bloody, vulgar and ridiculous – which pretty much makes it the perfect summer show for The Promethean Theatre.

Authors Matt Horgan and Travis Sharp, working with composer Eric Frampton, don’t pull off a musical with the coherence of either Cannibal! or Evil Dead (neither of which would serve as a model of musical theater structure). But within their ramshackle zombie tale, the creators manage moments of gross, gleeful zaniness. And Promethean drains every last drop of humor – and blood – from its latest zombie fest.
The newly engaged George (Christopher A. Kent, stepping in admirably for the ailing Matthew William Chizever) and Judith (a winsomely voluptuous Lindsey Elizabeth Forgey), much like ultra-wholesome Brad and Janet in The Rocky Horror Show, become obvious targets. So is Judith’s mom Peggy (the goofy Sharyn Peoples, a terrific actor-singer-comedian), a socially hopeless medical examiner with a snorting laugh, a woman who finds it far easier to “interact” with the corpse stretched out on her metal table than with anyone still breathing.
The guy who makes off with the show is Clay Cartland as businessman Harry Hardman, Judith’s ultra-macho ex-boyfriend. Just how comically insufferable is Harry? Well, his major love song in the show is about himself, and it’s titled (asterisks required) I’m F**king Awesome. Cartland plays Harry’s every condescending, misogynistic moment to the max, and he’s funny as hell.

Among the supporting performers, the standouts are Mark Della Ventura (particularly as Bruce, a Jewish guy whose favorite color is apparently pink) and Joshua Oliveras as Bruce’s “special” pal Raj.

The Promethean team... go all-out to bring every excessive moment of the script and score to life. Song of the Living Dead is certainly the opposite of serious, tasteful theater. But hey, it’s a show about zombies.
Promethean Theatre presents Song of the Living Dead at the Black Box Theatre of Nova Southeastern University through September 10, 2011.

Mad Cat Theatre: So My Grandmother Died...(5 reviews)

Mad Cat Theatre Company opened its production of So My Grandmother Died blah blah blah at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse on August 19, 2011.
The story of Polly Chekhov, a comedy writer in Hollywood, California who comes back to Hollywood, Florida for the wake of her beloved grandmother Mary.  The play is about the deconstruction of a euolgy.  A syncopated exposition of three sisters, the youngest Polly and her two older sisters.  Polly has writer’s block which becomes the instigating action which is responsible for most of the conflict.  Multiple characters, Polly’s eccentric family, a chorus of deconstructionists and a musician, carry you over the debris of endless cultural accumulations through a labyrinth of iconology. 

First test driven for one night as The Preservation Society in last year's South Beach Comedy Festival, Tei has re-titled, re-worked and re-cast this inventive new play.
Paul Tei directed a cast that included Melissa Almaguer, Erin Joy Schmidt, Deborah L. Sherman, George Schiavone, Beverly Blanchette, Anne Chamberlain, Troy Davidson,  Ricky Waugh and Brian Sayre.

Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
It is Tei’s contention, I suppose, that his target audience sees little value in linear structure or any of the other elements of what was quaintly once called “the well-made play.” Maybe he is right, for the assembled crowd with whom I saw Mad Cat’s latest opus certainly seemed engaged and entertained, even if they had little context for the scattershot mentions of Anton Chekhov, Henrik Ibsen and other dead white dudes that are dropped into So My Grandmother Died like factoid bombs.
Let’s assume Tei is familiar with the cartoons of Jules Feiffer, from which Annabella seems to leap. He certainly knows Chekhov’s Three Sisters and his take on this trio of angst-ridden sibs who yearn to go to Miami is drily amusing.
Try to make sense of it all at your own peril. Instead, accept the moment-to-moment enjoyment, which is considerable. Any insistence that it all add up to more, while understandable, would surely mark you as an old-school fuddy-duddy.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Have you heard the one about the talented actor-director-playwright who decided to explore his subconscious onstage? Sounds like a joke, but if you catch Mad Cat Theatre Company founder Paul Tei’s newest work, you’ll realize that, despite the frenetic efforts of Tei and his gifted cast, the result is only rarely a laughing matter.
Taking an anti-linear journey to its happy-sappy ending, the play is stuffed to the gills with pop- and high-culture allusions. Sit through its meandering, sometimes maddening two hours, and you’ll hear references to Ezra Pound, Billy Joel, Henrik Ibsen, Hedda Gabler, Green Acres, Yelp reviews, pirate jokes, Oprah, Miami Heat players, Glee, Willie Wonka, a commercial for Spaghetti-Os – well, the list feels endless. But that blizzard of attention-grabbing words can’t obscure the undernourished story beneath the theatrical razzle dazzle.

As the director, Tei uses the black-box space well, parking a coffin and funeral flowers in one corner, creating the Chekhov family’s cozy living room in the center, putting a microphone for Polly’s lame spoken-word performances alongside artfully used percussionist Brian Sayre.
So My Grandmother Died benefits from the skills and in-the-moment truth of the actors playing the three sisters. And it begins with a lovely, arresting image, as Chamberlain (playing the period-dressed ghost of Polly’s grandmother) moves about the darkened stage holding an umbrella illuminated by tiny white lights. But finding an overarching way to describe a play that touches on the power and specificity of words? “Blah” works.
Bill Hirschman submits the first-ever review for Florida Theater On Stage:
Paul Tei, co-founder of the company that always seems to be preceded by the adjective “edgy,” has returned home from Los Angeles to write and direct a satire that will charm the open-minded and puzzle the conventional.
So my grandmother... is a return to the idiosyncratic fantasias that Mad Cat favored years ago, such as Shepherd’s Pie and Helluva Halloween. Like them, it’s messy, undisciplined, even self-indulgent in its determination to break the rules. But it’s also a gold-plated hoot watching talented professionals smashing down traditional preconceptionsof theater.
One drawback of an unrelieved procession of nonsense is that mainstream audiences will spend a lot of misspent effort struggling to get their head around what Mad Cat is trying to do. It’s only when you throw up your hands and just hop in their back seat for the ride that it’s possible to enjoy it. Tei even lampoons that confusion. After Polly gives an impassioned, imagistic, but pretentious reading of her poetry, a relative asks her the same thing the audience is thinking:  “So who is this about?” To which, Polly answers, “Why does it have to be about someone?”
It’s hard to assess the acting because these are intentionally over-the-top comic characters. Made up to look like Ugly Betty or Abby from NCIS, Almaguer makes a dependable linchpin with a huge grin that often vanishes into angst.
Schmidt is flawless as the daffy and shallow single mother; Sherman is delightfully silly in her dance recitals. The three actors playing the chorus are especially good, each trading characters and accents like quicksilver chameleons, threading their lines in and around each other like speed demons on I-95.
Chris Joseph wrote scribbled down a bunch of adjectives for The Miami New Times:
If you like shows that combine witty comedy, textually dense psychodrama, trippy-ass quests of intellectual expression, philosophical meanderings, and comedic kitsch, Mad Cat Theatre Company's So My Grandmother Died, Blah Blah Blah is the show for you.
The kinetic, frenzied production plunges the audience into the mind of a struggling comedy writer trudging through the emotional baggage of her personal life, her relationship with her family, and her floundering career, all while grappling with a stubborn case of writer's block as she pens a eulogy for her dead grandmother.
Mad Cat Theatre Company and especially writer/director Paul Tei understand that theater doesn't resonate without a nuanced script, fascinating characters, a story that's daring and original, and well-timed Oprah jokes.
What a shame Mr. Joseph couldn't demonstrate how Mad Cat displays this understanding.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
It occurred to me while watching this opening night production that this play might be  custom-made for intellectually bright college level students (theatre majors?) or those who thrive at uncorking philosophical platitudes and explaining them as human theory.  It is that kind of production. It is not for general consumption. Many will go away saying they did not understand it.   
To say that this play is different is an understatement, but that is what Mad Cat is all about. Playwright-director Tei takes the audience on a spin covering what happens to a writer, what is important  in “theatre,” how love can be denied, the meaning of one’s own life,  as well as what it means to be a free thinking woman in society.
This original work features  Mad Cat Company members and some of Miami’s “hot, hip and offbeat “ talent...
Mad Cat Theatre Company's production of So My Grandmother Died blah blah blah plays at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through September 10, 2011.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mondays are Dark

While it's still the summer doldrums for theater, school started today for much of South Florida.  And while there are only a handful of plays in production, there's still a lot going on behind the scenes.

Broward's World-Ranked Venue
The Miracle Theatre Examiner reports that Broward Center for the Performing Arts sold more tickets that New York City's famed Radio City Music Hall in the year to date, ranking the venue in the top five in ticket sales on the planet according to Pollstar.
"Thanks to the audiences we bring in to enjoy our performances and events, and the wide range of acclaimed touring productions, the Broward Center has an economic impact on the region exceeding $90 million a year.  That's equivalent to the impact of a Super Bowl on Broward County each and every year," said Broward Center President and CEO Kelley Shanley.
Broward Center Growth
Meanwhile, South Florida Gay News talks with the center's president and CEO about how the Broward Center has grown in the past twenty years, and how it's about to grow again.
In recent months, Shanley has been crisscrossing the county to promote a major capital campaign for the center. The $44 million plan would upgrade the center’s 20-year-old technical capabilities, create an outdoor café and build a pavilion down to the Riverwalk area for events and educational programs.
The Broward Center had been an amazing investment for the people of south Florida; hopefully it will gather the support it needs to excel in the future.

A New Twist on Shakespeare
TheatreMania reports that New Theatre's production of Henry V has boldly cast as no one has cast so far. 
"I think the king is but a man..."
"Consideration, like an angel, came
And whipped the offending Adam out of him."
Ron Mangravite is putting Shakespeare's famed universality to the test. "Bending Author" indeed.

Speaking of Casting..., it's not Ken Clement this time.  Mosaic Theatre has announced that it's landed Ray Abruzzo to play the title role in the regional premiere of Lombardi.  Abruzzo is a familiar fact to anyone who has watched The Sopranos or The Practice, and has appeared on countless television shows and movies over the last twenty years or so.  Can he hold his own onstage with our own Laura Turnbull?  Time will tell.
And Ken Clement?  You can catch him next in Stage Door's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Herald's Outlook
Scrolling down this article in The Miami Herald, pass the news that Judith Drucker is presenting classical music again to the new that Nilo Cruz will be back in town to work on a bunch of projects, and, oh yeah, New Theatre cast a woman as Henry V.

Palm Beach DramaWorks Echoes The Past
BroadwayWorld recaps DramaWorks' 2011-2012 season in their new home.  While they are taking over the old Florida Rep space, their season echoes offerings from the old Actors' Repertory Company. 
It's been two decades and more since All My Sons played in West Palm Beach; the space shuttle Challenger exploded while it was in rehearsal, bringing home the relevance of the post WWII drama. It was also Nancy Barnett's first appearance on a South Florida stage. 
Jack Pinkney had a star turn in Master Harold and the Boys, directed by Mercedes Rudkin, along with Kevin Bronson and Mark Lomas.
But sad memories well up when we recall why the Rep's The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds closed early.  Even so, it's great that it will play a West Palm Beach Stage again.

News from the New Guys
Florida Theatre Onstage captures the surprise of Caldwell's second stage announcement, but goes on to analyze why it can work.  They also report that Caldwell's finances appear to be on the mend, albeit slowly.  What a shame that Florida Stage's board lacked the gumption of Caldwell's benefactors; that company was barely in a dip in the road compared to the hole that the Caldwell has been climbing out of.

It Ain't Easy
The Producer's Perspective observes that every job in theatre has its challenges.

Another New Company
Skye Whitcomb and Nori Tecosky have launched The Outré Theatre Company with an Indie-Go-Go campaign.  (Outré's website isn't up yet, BTW).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's Here!

The newest source for theatre review in Florida as unveiled; Florida Theater On Stage.

We've been looking forward to this all summer, and we're delighted to welcome Bill Hirschman and On Stage to the theatre scene.  In a climate of diminishing arts coverage, there has been a serious need for solid theatre critique and insightful stories about theatre, and no one is better qualified than Bill Hirschman to bring it to us.

Let's be clear; On Stage is not  a blog, it's an online magazine.   Oh, it will include a blog -  Stage Bill, which will be Bill Hirschman's informal space for banter.  But On Stage has other journalists covering the news; Mary Damiano, Michele F. Solomon, and Brad Hathaway.

Now here's the part where I have to speak sternly to those of you who run theatres;  you need to call up ON STAGE right now, and buy some advertising.  No excuses, just do it.  This is a better investment than say, The Sun-Sentinel certain newspapers, because it's got a team of writers who are actually qualified to cover your shows. Better writers means better stories.  AND this is all they'll be covering. That means that more people will be stopping in to ON STAGE to read reviews than The Sun-Sentinel certain news outlets.

Bluntly: if you are a South Florida theater, you owe it to yourselves and the community to advertise with Florida Theater On Stage.

So spread the word; Florida has a new source for theater news.  Go read Florida Theater On Stage.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Acessible Performances, 2011-2012

Courtesy of Lew Balaban and Florida Access Coalition for the Arts, here are the accessible shows at some of South Florida's major venues. 

If you are involved with a venue that doesn't provide accessibility, contact FLACA to see how you can reach out to audiences with special needs.

And if you are a venue that provides accessibility through other means, feel free to post your information in the Comments section, or email, so we can add you to the list.


Rain Broward Center
 10/14/11     10/15/11.

Addams FamilyArsht Center
10/29/11.    10/30/11


Addams FamilyKravis Center
11/13/11.     11/12/11

Beauty and the BeastBroward Center


The Red ThreadThe PlayGround Theatre

ShrekArsht Center

Million Dollar Quartet
Arsht Center


HairKravis Center
1/15/12     1/14/12.

Jersey BoysBroward Center


La Cage Aux Folles
Kravis Center
  2/19/12       2/18/12

Adventures of Alice in Wonderland - The PlayGround Theatre


Billy ElliotBroward Center

Come Fly AwayKravis Center
3/18/12   3/17/12

Come Fly AwayArsht Center
3/24/12     3/25/12.


South PacificBroward Center
4/20/12       4/21/12


Very Old Man with Wings - The PlayGround Theatre

Les MiserablesKravis Center
5/20/12      5/19/12

Lion KingArsht Center
5/19/12     5/20/12


La Cage Aux FollesBroward Center
6/22/12     6/23/12