Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Scene for April 1, 2011.

Well, it's no April Fool's prank when we say that this is still a great week for the theater - it's the last weekend you can take advantage of "The Letts-tival"* in Coral Gables;  Actors' Playhouse is closing half the "Letts-tival," August: Osage County on Sunday.

Two of the three major performing arts centers are hosting Broadway musicals this weekend - with In the Heights being the end of the line for this particualar tour.  But they're going out strong, and it's well worth seeing if you haven't done so yet.

And do you have your tickets to Theatre Prom yet?  Tick tock, people!  The 35th Annual Carbonell Awards are Monday!

* thanks to Hunter McConnell for the phrase.


Crazy for You opens at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, and runs through April 17.

you still haven't missed...

New Theatre opens The Radiant, starring Angelica Torn.  Through April 27, 2011. There's a great interview with Torn on The South Florida Theater Review

The First Step - a Diary of a Sex Addict opens at Empire Stage and plays through April 24.   It's directed by Michael Leeds, who seems to have plays all over Broward County.

Fifty/Fifty plays at Teatro en Miami Studio through May 14.  Spanish, with English supertitles.

Gablestage's production of Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts  runs through April 10.

Florida Stage presents the world premiere of Ghost-Writer, through April 3.

The critics are raving about The Light in the Piazza  at The Stage Door Theatre, which plays through April 10.

Palm Beach DramaWorks is running Dinner with Friends through April 17. 

The Stage Door Theatre  production of Plaza Suite runs through March 20 has been extended to April 24.

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

passing through...

Wicked plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through April 24, 2011.  There is a daily ticket lottery, where you can win a pair of seats in the orchestra section for only $25 each.

In the Heights ends its first national tour at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, this week only, through Sunday April 3.

The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus presents The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at Parker Playhouse.  In case  you're wondering, yes, this is an all-male cast.  Friday and Saturday only.

last chance to see...

The Alliance Theatre Lab's world premiere production of David Michael Sirois' The Brothers Beckett ends its run on April 3.

Tracy Letts' critically acclaimed drama, August: Osage County, has been playing to record houses at Actors' Playhouse, but has to finish its run this Sunday, April 3.

Grey Gardens winds up its run at the Rising Action Theatre this Sunday, April 3.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mondays are Dark

Have you rented your tux yet?  Chosen a gown?  You've only got seven days before The 35th Annual Carbonell Awards.  And is once again throwing an after-party.  This year, it's in The Green Room, a slightly swankier club in the same complex as last year's party.

But in the meantime, here's your Monday reading list:

They're So Excited
South Florida Theater Review talks up the newly announced season lineup for The Broward Center for the Performing Arts; The Miami Herald is calling it "The Broadway Center."  And that sounds about right: Billy Elliot, La Cage Aux Folles, Beauty and the Beast, Jersey Boys, and South Pacific are included in the schedule.  As is RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles, which is wowing them on The Great White Way right now.

Another Venue, Another Season
South Florida Theater Review reports that the Arsht Center has also announced its theatre lineup for next season.  The Addams FamilySHREK, the Musical, Million Dollar Quartet, and Come Fly Away will all breeze through for one-week runs, with The Lion King sitting down for several weeks in its first Miami visit (although the tour launched from Broward Center several years ago).

Director2Director Direct
Director Nicole Stoddard interviews director Michael Leeds for 2AMtheatre.

Proto-Jukebox Musical
Florida Weekly looks at Crazy For You, opening this week at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
Two decades ago, long before jukebox musical was a pejorative term for a lazily written show cobbled from existing songs, lawyer-turned-playwright Ken Ludwig was permitted access to most of the song library of George and Ira Gershwin to create a new musical.
This production closes a circle: fifteen years ago, the first post-Broadway production of CFY was staged at Jupiter Theatre, and broke all box office records up to that point.

Wicked this Way Comes
BroadwayWorld reports that Wicked will be holding a daily ticket lottery during its month-long run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  It's a shot at orchestra seats for $25!

Latest Casting News
Mosaic Theatre announces that Greg Wiener has been added to the cast of Dusk Rings A Bell, but the real news via Facebook is that Ken Clement got cast on The Glades TV show. Playing...something.  We don't know what.  But we know it's another blow against the terrorists.  Congrats to Ken and Greg.

Got Sex?
South Florida Gay News talks with director Michael Leeds (here he is again!) about The First Step: Diary of a Sex Addict, now playing at Empire Stage.

Too Sexy for their Clothes(ing)
Far from the beach, Time Out NY reports that the Off-Broadway production of Hello Again has extended, which means that South Florida's Rachel Bay Jones gets another week's work in the critically acclaimed play as The Actress.

End Of The Line
The Miami Herald  talks with company members about the final stop of the In the Heights tour at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  Christine Dolen manages to talk to every South Floridian involved with the production.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Scene for March 25, 2011

Thursday night only, catch Linda Eder and Marc Kudisch in Neil Goldberg's Cirque Dreams Broadway at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  This is an original production commissioned to celebrate the center's 20th anniversary.  In addition to Eder, Kudisch, and the Cirque performers, the show features the South Plantation High School Drama Club, the Miramar High School Marching Band, and over a dozen other performers from around South Florida, all performing songs from top Broadway hits that have played the Broward Center over the last two decades.  The Sun Sentinel has video from rehearsal.

And do you have your tickets to Theatre Prom yet?  Tick tock, people!  The 35th Annual Carbonell Awards are a week from Monday!


New Theatre opens The Radiant, starring Angelica Torn.  Through April 27, 2011. There's a great interview with Torn on The South Florida Theater Review
("SIX DEGREES" TRIVIA: Ms. Torn is the daughter of Rip Torn and the late Geraldine Page; Gordon McConnell, currently appearing in Superior Donuts at GableStage, appeared with Ms. Page in The Madwoman of Chaillot at The Mirror Rep back in 1985).

The First Step - a Diary of a Sex Addict opens at Empire Stage and plays through April 24.   It's directed by Michael Leeds, who seems to have plays all over Broward County.

you still haven't missed...

The Alliance Theatre Lab's world premiere production of David Michael Sirois' The Brothers Beckett runs through April 3.

Tracy Letts' critically acclaimed drama, August: Osage County, plays at Actors' Playhouse through April 3.

Meanwhile,  Gablestage's production of Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts offers a lighter tale, and it also runs through April 10.

Florida Stage presents the world premiere of Ghost-Writer, through April 3.

The critics are raving about The Light in the Piazza  at The Stage Door Theatre, which plays through April 10.

Palm Beach DramaWorks is running Dinner with Friends through April 17. 

Grey Gardens makes its South Florida Premiere at the Rising Action Theatre, through April 3.

The Stage Door Theatre  production of Plaza Suite runs through March 20 has been extended to April 24.

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

passing through...

Spring Awakening comes to Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse, March 25 - 27th.   Seats available ONSTAGE!

Second City's Fair & Unbalanced plays Friday night only at The Broward Center.

Circumcise Me plays at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center through March 27.

last chance to see...

Caldwell Theatre Company production of  Next Fall closes this Sunday, March 27, 2011.

The Jesus Quintero Studio original production of Hour of the Wolf, described as "creating an experience for the audience, rather than putting on a show," winds up its run on March 20 has been extended to March 27

for kids...

Rythms of the World is the featured performance for Family Fest Day at the Arsht Center at 2pm on Saturday.  Festivities begin at 11:30 AM.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Alliance Theatre Lab: The Brothers Beckett (3 reviews)

The Alliance Theatre Lab opened its world premiere production of David Michael Sirois' The Brothers Beckett on March 17, 2011
Kevin Beckett is a Yale Alumnus who is awaiting the arrival of his beloved girlfriend named Tuesday, who will be spending a perfect week with him and his roommate and brother, Brad. When Kevin divulges to Brad he will be proposing, Brad tries to find any way possible to keep his brother from moving out of their bunk bedded, pink walled studio apartment.

Brothers Beckett marks the first World Premier production from our Resident Playwright and Ensemble member David Michael Sirois.
Alberto Acevedo directed a cast that included David Dearstyne, David Sirois, Kaitlyn O'Neil, Shira Abergel, and Mark Della Ventura.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Brothers Beckett is a Neil Simon-esque message farce for the Generation X-Box crowd, The Odd Couple for young men raised on Spider-man and Star Wars. Alliance’s resident playwright (David Sirois) joins Adam Rapp and Neil LeBute in dissecting a Not-Quite-Lost Generation.
His hilarious script is lifted even further by the driving, ping-pong direction of Alberto Acevedo and a preternaturally tight ensemble effortlessly riffing off each other’s licks like jazz musicians.
One joy for a regular theatergoer is to see someone they thought was merely an adequate actor finally get the right script and the right direction to reveal what they really can do. Earlier this month, we saw Marckenson Charles do it in Superior Donuts. Now it’s Dearstyne, who was just okay in Speech and Debate, but here proves to be a gifted comic actor with a goofy smile, energetic earnestness, sad eyes and that unexpected body language.
Just as good, just not as showy, is Sirois himself who has a delightfully dry delivery and an almost naturalistic style like Tom Hanks or Jack Lemmon. Della Ventura occasionally has to fight the Alliance Curse of muttering lines and underplaying into invisibility. But most of the time, he’s got the same comic chops as the other two, exuding a good-natured Seth Rogen vibe.
Brothers Beckett, the first original script in Alliance’s history, should encourage audiences to see the rest of their season: Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love in June and [title of show] in November.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The first world premiere for the Miami Lakes-based Alliance Theatre Lab, Brothers Beckett is a gamble that pays off big time. Sirois, a New World School of the Arts grad, has written a number of short and full-length plays. But Brothers Beckett, which will be for many a first exposure to the actor’s work as a playwright, reveals a craftsman’s skills. In shaping an engaging story told by vividly drawn characters through observantly witty dialogue, Sirois becomes a significant new voice among the region’s small-but-growing group of playwrights.
As staged by Alliance artistic director Adalberto Acevedo (who also designed the Becketts’ dorm room of an apartment), Brothers Beckett also underscores the way that young South Florida-educated talent is becoming a force in local theater.

Mark Della Ventura, who plays the Becketts’ best-bud neighbor Doug, and Shira Abergel, who plays Kevin Beckett’s dream girl Tuesday, are (like Sirois and Dearstyne) products of New World. Kaitlyn O’Neill, a University of Miami grad, plays the brothers’ friend Joyce. All have worked at a variety of South Florida theaters, but seeing their sizzling chemistry and easy shorthand pay off so handsomely in this production is a real treat.
With uniformly terrific performances, Brothers Beckett is that rarity, a play that speaks resonantly to its young characters’ contemporaries while entertaining a much broader audience. Though play development doesn’t always work out this way, for the evolving Alliance, taking a risk on a new script by a young writer has brought bountiful artistic rewards.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:

There's almost too much to like in Brothers Beckett, the new play by David Sirois receiving its world premiere at the Alliance Theatre Lab.  And what a smart move by Adalberto Acevedo in choosing this piece and directing it.  And what a smart move casting Sirois in his own play.  And adding Shira Abergel, David Dearstyne, Mark Della Ventura and Kaitlyn O'Neill to give us five of the best young actors performing today.
But it's not all about the acting.  Sirois' script is terrific.  Think tight, tender, irreverent, vulgar and very, very funny.
The Alliance Theatre Lab  production of David Michael Sirois' The Brothers Beckett will run through April 3.

Mondays are Dark.

Hmm.  We spun the Carbonell Awards and Cirque Dreams stories off into their own posts.  We'll have to do some digging to keep this week's MaD looking full.

New Theater is opening the world premiere of Shirley Lauro's The Radiant this week, and has landed a fairly major actress to star in it.  BroadwayWorld and The Miami Theater Examiner both have stories.

Not to be outdone, Mosaic Theatre has announced they're bringing in Jenny McKnight to appear in Dusk Rings a Bell.


Rachel Bay Jones is appearing in the first major New York City revival of Hello Again, according to Playbill.

New Stuff
The Miami Herald reports that the New World School of the Arts is holding its annual showcase this Friday, March 25.

Ghost of a Seed
The Shiny Sheet learns what led to the creation of Ghost Writer, the current production at Florida Stage.

"...and reading The Scene, of course."
ArsthPOV asks some of the cast of Jersey Boys what they've been doing when they're not onstage performing. (None of them actually mention reading Mondays are Dark.)   We know that Joe Bwarie, at least, made the trip to the Broward Center to catch the Florida Sunshine Pops' tribute to Frankie Valli.

Finally, the one Spider-Man Article We'll Link To.

You might have noticed that we've refrained from mentioning all the hullabaloo surrounding Spider Man: Turn Off the DarkThe Producer's Perspective sums up our views nicely.

Sometimes, They Come Back

The LA Times reports that The Pasadena Playhouse is not only back in business, but has announced a full five-show season. 
With three shows staged so far, Hershey Felder's one-man "George Gershwin Alone" opening April 12 and "Twist — an American Musical" scheduled to open June 25, the Playhouse will have fulfilled the main obligation left over from its bankruptcy: providing five more plays at no further cost to the 5,300 subscribers who'd paid in advance for an aborted 2010 season in which just one of the six announced productions was staged.
The company had closed its doors in February 2010, and emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy this past October.

Ripples from The Grove
The Coconut Grove Playhouse is still shuttered, but its influence still echoes.
  • The Palm Beach Daily News reports that Alfred Browaning Parker, the architect who over saw the renovation that defined the Playhouse's "live theatre" era in 1954, passed away on March 11.
  • The Bergen Record reports that Stage Manager Beverly Randolph died on March 15, succumbing to brain cancer.  She met her husband, James Eisner, when they both worked at the Playhouse 39 years ago.
Meanwhile... Palm Beach, the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed, and The Palm Beach Daily News  - or at least Bob Rodenberg, writing "special to" - expresses serious doubts about the man most vocal about saving it.
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. The greatest trick Patrick Henry Flynn ever pulled was convincing Palm Beach that he actually sought to save the Royal Poinciana Playhouse.
In fairness, the Theater Scene must point out that while Rodenberg implies that The Guild listed questionable expenses "while doing nothing," he also utterly failed to mention that The Guild does produce events through out the year, such as the upcoming Centennial Follies.  Which Rodenberg would know if he read the Daily News:
Oct 30, 2010  ...the Palm Beach Theater Guild is planning to produce its version of the local, um, “talent” showcase in the spring... The early word is that the 2011 Follies will be a book musical — already being penned by a stable of writers including Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino, artist/cartoonist Pat Crowley, Helen Guest, Paul Noble and Mia Matthews... Broadway vet Barry Ingham, a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, will direct.
Rodenberg also alleges that the building's owner, the Sterling Organization, tried to get the Theatre Guild to rent the theatre, an arrangement that Flynn has insisted that Sterling would not entertain.  Rodenberg did not supply names of Sterling representatives.

In fact, in a stunning lapse of journalistic integrity, The Daily News failed to post any of the supporting documentation. Not a single PDF of a public record, not a link to a single database entry.  Contrast this to last year's Naples News exposé of Gary Waldman and Jamison Troutman.  Not only was the article professionally written in an objective tone, but every document mentioned is made available to the reader.

While the Theatre Scene has its own doubts about the viability of The Playhouse and the Theatre League's business plans for, we're frankly appalled that a daily newspaper would print such a bold example of yellow journalism without even the slightest nod to current professional standards. We didn't think we could think less of "The Shiny Sheet."  We were wrong.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Broward Center Turns Twenty

That's right, South Florida's first true performing arts center opened twenty years ago, and they're putting up a special show  this Thursday (March 24) to celebrate: Neil Goldberg’s Cirque Dreams Broadway, co-starring singer Linda Eder (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel) and three time Tony Award nominee Marc Kudisch (9 to 5, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), and featuring a large cast of locals.

From The Miami Herald:
The production, which blends music, acrobatics and visual extravagance, aims to recap 20 years of Broadway history with tributes to The Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof, Cats, Chicago, La Cage Aux Folles and other productions . By design, all of these hits have played — and helped financially support — the center.

“It seemed logical when I sat down with Broward Center — 20 years of Broadway in a celebratory fashion,” Goldberg, a 30-year South Florida fixture, says. “It’s a fit for them and the direction I was leaning toward even before I knew of the anniversary.”

Cirque Dreams Broadway will also feature local actors Max Greenberg, 11, of Hollywood, and Sammy Schecter, 11, of Coral Gables in the Oliver! segment. The South Plantation High chorus will perform the finale.

All told, 143 people will fill the cast.
Hmm, they forgot about the marching band. I happen to know there is an honest-to-god marching band participating in the show.

And they should have mentioned that Mark Kudisch is from Plantation, and came through FAU's theatre program.

Other highlights in the article:
  • In February 1991, Broward Center for the Performing Arts opened its 224,500-square-foot facility with a touring production of The Phantom of the Opera in its 2,700-seat Au-Rene Theater. The venue was completed just a bit over the $56 million budget, and on time.
  • by September 2000, the center’s 15-member board paid off the debt 11 years early and saved more than $2.5 million in interest payments.
  • In 2004, Pollstar, a concert-industry trade organization, ranked the Broward Center higher in ticket sales than New York’s Radio City Music Hall and ranked it ninth in the world and first in Florida.
  • In 2010 Broward Center’s Au-Rene ranked No. 12 in the world in ticket sales on Pollstar’s latest chart and still topped its closest local competitor, Dreyfoos Hall in West Palm Beach, which ranked No. 16. The growing Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami did not make the Top 100 list...
Tickets to Cirque Dreams Broadway can be purchased at  Also coming up: Video Games LIVE, the return of the national tour of WICKED, Spring Awakening (at the Parker Playhouse), and much, much more.

Carbonell Awards Tickets ARE On Sale

Lest you forget, the 35th Annual Carbonell Awards are on April 4th, and tickets are on sale now at the Broward Center website.

Also reminding you about "Theatre Prom" are The Drama Queen and the the South Florida Theater Review.

From The Review:
This edition is being produced by Michael McKeever and directed by Stuart Meltzer. Similar to last season’s edition, the ceremony will open with a parody song written by Maribeth Graham and include a stripped down excerpts from the five nominated musicals: Academy (Maltz Jupiter Theatre), The Drowsy Chaperone (Broward Stage Door Theatre), La Cage Aux Folles (Maltz Jupiter Theatre), Mack and Mabel (Broward Stage Door Theatre) and Miss Saigon (Actors’ Playhouse).
And The Drama Queen:
After the ceremony, which is being hosted by actor-playwright (and double Carbonell nominee) Michael McKeever and directed by Zoetic Stage artistic director Stuart Meltzer, there's more theater prom fun courtesy of the South Florida Theatre League.  The League is hosting the Carbonell after-party from 10 p.m. to midnight at the Green Room, 109 SW Second Ave., just a few blocks from the Broward Center.  Admission is free with a Carbonell ticket stub, and with that comes a free welcome drink, a ticket for a second drink, a buffet and a cash bar.  And who knows what kind of post-prom drama?
Hmm.  I don't recall any "drama" the last time around. Just drinks with the theatre community, and some dancin'...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Scene for March 18

In the odd schedule of life, The Scene for Friday the 18th of March actually comes out on THURSDAY, which is St. Patrick's Day.  Now somehow, this celebration of a sainted Irish monk as turned into an orgy of green beer and whisky that would have appalled the devout Catholic cleric. 

So we'll just point out that if you want to celebrate your Irish heritage in a more appropriate manner, there are options.  For example, you can catch Sir James Galway and his wife in concert at The Broward Center.  But if you must have the green beer, you can make a stop along Himmarshee Street first, then stumble up the hill for an evening with a Gaelic master.  And if you're farther north, there are still tickets to see The Celtic Tenors at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.


The Alliance Theatre Lab opens its world premiere production of David Michael Sirois' The Brothers Beckett, which will run through April 3.

Edge Theatre is opening Don Juan in Hell, but they don't have a website, so I can't link to anything.  But the press release mentions a lot of dead people who won't be in this production.  It's this Saturday and Sunday only, and we are told to note that "this location is in North Miami."  You have been duly warned.

you still haven't missed...

Tracy Letts' critically acclaimed drama, August: Osage County, plays at Actors' Playhouse through April 10.

Meanwhile,  Gablestage's production of Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts offers a lighter tale, and it also runs through April 10.

Florida Stage presents the world premiere of Ghost-Writer, through April 3.

The critics are raving about The Light in the Piazza  at The Stage Door Theatre, which plays through April 10.

Caldwell Theatre Company presents  Next Fall, through March 27, 2011.

Palm Beach DramaWorks is running Dinner with Friends through April 17. 

Grey Gardens makes its South Florida Premiere at the Rising Action Theatre, through April 3.

The Stage Door Theatre  production of Plaza Suite runs through March 20 has been extended to April 24.

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

last chance to see...

The Jesus Quintero Studio original production of Hour of the Wolf, described as "creating an experience for the audience, rather than putting on a show," winds up its run on March 20.

passing through...

Jersey Boys returns to South Florida, this time stopping in at the Arsht Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House through March 20.  Joe Bwarie, who plays Frankie Valli in the show, made time to check out Florida Sunshine Pops' Tribute to Frankie Valli, arranged and conducted by Charles Calello (himself one of the original Four Seasons).

Robyn Peterson's Catwalk Confidential plays this weekend only at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater, March 17-20.

Circumcise Me plays at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center through March 27.

for kids...

It's spring break.  They get the whole durned week.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GableStage: Superior Donuts (5 reviews)

GableStage opened its production of Tracy Lett's Superior Donuts on March 12, 2011.
A new comedy/drama from the author of two GableStage favorites - Killer Joe (2000) and Bug (2004) - and the Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County. An offbeat friendship grows between a cantankerous white shop owner and an ambitious black teenager with something to hide. Amidst the changing face of an old Chicago neighborhood, a local donut shop becomes the setting for old secrets, new beginnings and the redemptive power of friendship.
Joe Adler directed a cast that included Avi Hoffman, Sally Bondi, Patti Gardner, Chaz Mena, Marckenson Charles, Paul Homza, Alex Alvarez, and Gordon McConnell.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper (scroll down - it's the second half of a two-fer):
At its best,‭ ‬Superior Donuts draws the growth of the unlikely friendship of Arthur and Franco,‭ ‬as they trade wisecracks and world views.‭ ‬Franco is brought vividly to life by a very promising young African-American actor,‭ ‬Marckenson Charles,‭ ‬whose swagger and verbal confidence are both ingratiating and persuasive.‭ ‬He plays off of the naturally ebullient Avi Hoffman,‭ ‬here underplaying as a man whose life went on hold when he fled to Canada during the Vietnam War,‭ ‬evading the draft.‭
...Superior Donuts is a lot more upbeat than most of GableStage’s fare,‭ ‬though director Joe Adler does what he can to cover the proceedings with a layer of grit.‭ ‬In addition to Hoffman and Charles,‭ ‬he fills the stage with an on-target ensemble that includes John Archie and Patti Gardner as two of the Second City’s finest,‭ ‬Sally Bondi as a wry bag lady and particularly Chaz Mena as a Russian entrepreneur eager to acquire Arthur’s shop.
Chris Joseph turns in a a review bereft of any worthwhile analysis to the Miami New Times:
Superior Donuts... is lighthearted, simple, and oftentimes sentimental. That doesn't mean it isn't filled with nuance or substance.
And then it's endless paragraphs reciting the story of the play.  Blah Blah Blah.  So and so was a heavy.  This one was "solid," and that one was "authentic."  But was it the writing, the performance or a combination that made it work?  You won't find out from Chris Joseph.
Director Joseph Adler has done a masterful job with this production's ensemble. Led by the talented Mr. Hoffman, Superior's actors all have stage presence and great comedic timing — essential in a play where the dialogue is everything.
Imagine that - professional stage actors with stage presence.  Stop the presses! 

Eventually, Mr. Joseph actually spits out an observation actually germane to the production of the play:
To top it all off, a fight scene choreographed by Homza is as graphic and violent as you'll see performed during a live production.
Mr. Joseph enjoyed the play and recommends it, but the New Times should keep looking for a theatre critic - this guy has no clue about what constitutes a properly written theatre review.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...Superior Donuts displays the talented Letts’ many gifts: snappy dialogue, an engaging plot, the way he laces even the funniest moments with darker undercurrents (and vice versa). This one, artfully and entertainingly staged by Joseph Adler, is set inside a tidily kept donut shop in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood... a place so authentically rendered by designer Lyle Baskin that you want to claim a stool at the counter and order a donut
... bad guys Luther Flynn (Gordon McConnell) and Kevin Magee (Paul Homza) show up, as does Max’s hulking nephew Kiril (Alex Alvarez), all participating in a fight scene so well choreographed by Homza that it looks like Hoffman and McConnell are doing real damage to each other.
The acting in Superior Donuts is, as is so often the case at GableStage, first-rate.

Hoffman has to cope with Arthur’s character-revealing monologues that, truth be told, could have been integrated as dialogue, and playing depression presents another challenge. But the actor crafts a character who is both an appealing mess and a stand-up guy. The funny, scene-stealing Mena makes you wish Letts would write a play about this wily Russian. In his short scenes, McConnell exudes smiling, exasperated menace.

Charles, a recent New World School of the Arts graduate, finds all the layers in the beautifully written Franco — charm, hustle, despair, joy, humor, the gift of inspiration. Watching him is exciting, both in the moment and because you realize you’re catching a talent at the beginning of what promises to be a brilliant career.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Two elements injected electricity into GableStage’s entertaining production of Tracy Letts’ flawed script for Superior Donuts: Marckenson Charles’ breakout performance as a street kid with unfettered dreams, plus one of the most convincing brawls ever seen on a Florida stage.
... under Joe Adler’s direction Saturday night, Charles blossoms fully as Franco Wicks. He delivers Letts’ steady stream of irreverent chatter and banter with the smart-aleck stand-up rhythms of Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock.
... the script has one serious weakness and it undercuts this production as well. Arthur has to carry the play for the first half-hour until Franco arrives. But Letts has written him – and Hoffman plays him faithfully – as a profoundly shut-down human being. Hoffman and Adler bravely choose not to make him some charismatic curmudgeon with a heart of gold.
You can argue Hoffman even plays him too tamped down, but when Arthur awakens, so does Hoffman. When Arthur rises phoenix-like, Hoffman does not sink to creating some fearless storybook hero. Hoffman expertly shows the dread under the resolve; his Arthur knows before he begins that there will be no clear-cut victory accompanied by a swelling soundtrack. Which makes his resurrection all the more courageous.

That rebirth leads to the knock-down, drag-out fist fight between Hoffman and McConnell, two actors on the far side of 50 slugging it out like they were reenacting the last reel of Rocky. Paul Homza, who also plays Luther’s chief thug, has staged a stunning battle. Most stage fisticuffs look fake even from a distance. This one looked as real as you can hope for, even ten feet away. Homza’s choreography is impressive, but also credit the actors, huffing and staggering like middle-aged men would while beating the hell out of each other.

The supporting cast is solid but  Mena... steals every scene with his cartoonish emigre complete with fractured English, slicked-back hair, garish bling, booming voice and an infectious joy at living the American Dream.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
I've got to say, if you put Avi Hoffman in a pot with Chaz Mena, Gordon McConnell, Marckenson Charles; John Archie, Patti Gardner, Paul Homza, Sally Bondi and Alex Alvarez and have Joe Adler stir them up, you'll get one scrumptious evening at the theatre.
With his tie-dyed t-shirt, torn jeans and lank, unwashed ponytail hanging off the back of his balding head, Hoffman gives us a complex cowardly man who is capable of heroic deeds.  And great comedy. 
Mena's sly Max, with his mangled English, his swagger, and his clothes and jewelery, is a delight.
But delightful is not the word for Gordon McConnell who is Luther the bookie.  Try brutal, menacing and unbearably pleasant. 
Recent New World graduate Marckenson Charles, who plays Franco, a young black man who finds work in the doughnut store is a flat out pleasure to watch.  Remember this young man's name:  Marckenson Charles.  You'll be seeing it often.
Luther the bookie's “muscle” is Kevin, played by Paul Homza, who also staged one of the best fight scenes I've seen.  Hoffman and McConnell throw themselves around with such abandon and skill that it's hard to tell the stage blood from the real.

Superior Donuts plays at GableStage through April 10, 2011.

Actors, Playhouse: August: Osage County (7 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse opened its production of Tracy Lett's August: Osage County at the Miracle Theater on March 11, 2011.
It is August in Oklahoma and an alcoholic father has gone missing, a mother is caught in the grip of addiction, a marriage has come undone, a romance is brewing and a lie has been uncovered. Meet the Westons, a family of unforgettable characters approaching a total meltdown. Ask anyone who’s seen it and he or she’ll tell you – August: Osage County is one of the most unforgettable evenings you will ever spend at the theatre. Every night, gasps reverberate throughout the theatre as each new bombshell is dropped in this hilarious and stinging look at an American family in crisis.
David Arisco directed a cast that included Annette Miller, Dennis Creaghan, Barbara Bradshaw, Erik Fabregat, Jackie Rivera, Stephine G. Anthony, Laura Turnbull, Greg Weiner, Peter Haig, David Kwiat, Cecilia Isis Torres, Kathryn Lee Johnston, and Amy McKenna.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...‬a script of this magnitude is not an easy matter to produce,‭ ‬let alone for a company like Actors‭’ ‬Playhouse of Coral Gables,‭ ‬whose strength is musical theater.‭ ‬Yet Letts‭’ ‬play has obviously gotten the creative juices of director David Arisco flowing and the material has attracted some of the region’s finest acting talent.‭ ‬The result is a production that is likely to be a landmark of South Florida theater for years to come.
Annette Miller...‭ ‬dominates the evening as sharp-tongued Violet...‭ ‬Barbara‭ (‬a steely Laura Turnbull‭)‬,‭ ‬pulls an Alexander Haig and declares herself in charge of the calamitous situation.‭
John Thomason reviewed for Boca Magazine:
Then there are shows like “August: Osage County” at Actors’ Playhouse – that rare show of such exquisite perfection that it sets a new standard to which every show to come out for the rest of the year should aspire.
David Arisco’s staging offers a feast for the eyes in just about every quadrant of the set. Rather than freezing his inactive cast members in time, as most productions do, Arisco has them continue living in the house’s many rooms, even when they’re not the subjects of the given scene’s dialogue.
Miller is outstanding in the play’s only leading role, slurring her words with drugged conviction, channeling some of the disturbed spontaneity of Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence. The local ensemble keeps pace with her every step of the way, and the standouts include Laura Turnbull as Violet’s micromanaging daughter Barbara; Barbara Bradshaw as Violet’s bombshell-dropping sister Mattie Fae; and Stephen G. Anthony as the creepy, pedophilic fiancée to Violet’s daughter Karen (Amy McKenna).
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
If I should bump into you on the street and you tell me you still haven't seen August: Osage County at The Actors' Playhouse then shame on you. If you love good theatre you owe it to yourself to jump into this pool of drugs, alcohol, sex, incest, child molestation, death and snide humor now flooding the massive on-stage homestead of the Weston family. 
An entirely excellent cast with Annette Miller and Laura Turnbull as the absolute standouts.

Sean McClelland is responsible for the tremendous three-story house that these characters rocket around in, bedeviling and berating each other, lying, taunting, whining, fondling, abusing and generally having one hell of a time.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
The remarkable set for this production of August: Osage County by Sean McClelland seems nearly impossible. He has fit three detailed, functional stories of a house on the Actors Playhouse stage, with clear views from nearly every angle. Lighting and sound accommodate the set and the large cast flawlessly.
Annette Miller is brilliant as Violet—mercurially venomous and vulnerable. Watching her slip in and out of lucidity is fascinating... Miller is a gifted actress who has captured the image of a woman teetering on the edge madness.
The self-absorbed and frivolous Karen is amusing played by Amy McKenna. Her morally degenerate fiancé Steve seems almost too well played by actor Stephen G. Anthony. Barbara Bradshaw finds multiple layers in the character Mattie Fae.
Laura Turnbull conquers the unenviable role of Barbara as she rides the biggest emotional roller coaster in the show. Turnbull is immersed in this character to the point that one can lose sight of the fact that she is acting a script and not in the reality of the moment. Being an actress that can make an audience forget they are watching a show and are instead witnessing someone else's moment is an incredible thing. For moments like this created by Turnbull and Miller, August: Osage County is worth the 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Running 3 ½ hours with two intermissions, featuring 13 characters struggling with demons and frustrated dreams, August: Osage County is the Iditarod of contemporary theater. But the Actors’ Playhouse edition Friday night staked its claim as a highlight of one of the best South Florida theater seasons in recent memory.
This is Arisco’s best work in years directing a straight play. He elicits memorable, grounded performances and adds dozens of grace notes... Arisco’s years directing musicals and lighter comedies have honed his ability maximize the considerable dark humor here.

But his real triumph is his pacing of three and a half hours. While it doesn’t race by like the Steppenwolf version, it flows smoothly at a near perfect clip...
The production elements include Ellis Tillman’s dead-on costumes and Alexander Herrin’s superior sound. Patrick Tennent’s lighting deftly evokes the changing time of day (especially the dark-night-of-the-soul lighting in the study)...
Sean McClelland’s design of the towering suffocating homestead and Gene Seyffer’s execution of it is remarkable for its scope and power. The building has a brooding presence of its own with its decades of paint jobs and wallpaper peeled back, just as Letts is doing with the family.
Saving the best for last: There’s not even a mediocre link in the superb cast. Under Arisco’s direction, they provide textbook examples of naturalistic acting.
Top of the list is Miller’s bravura performance. Miller, the sole non-Floridian here, appeared in Actors’ production of Martha Mitchell Calling in 2007. But this is a far more courageous endeavor as she perpetually dances on the edge of caricature but never once falls over... Her grin is childlike one moment, carnivorous the next.
As for Turnbull, locals have been awed by her talent for more than a decade... She rewards Actors with stellar work in which you never see the gears and levers. She exists inside her character so naturally that it seems like she’s doing nothing, much like Spencer Tracy.
Johnston also hasn’t had a role this worthy of her since GableStage’s Bug in 2004. She makes the most of this opportunity as the reticent daughter whose true character slowly emerges. McKenna, too, inventively depicts Karen’s shallowness including a hilarious near-monologue in which she natters mindlessly to her sister about her life in Florida, barely disguising a desperate self-deceiving need to be loved.
...special mention is due Bradshaw for creating a Mattie Fae who is laughably self-centered and thoughtlessly cruel. But when her own secret is revealed in the last act, Bradshaw makes us see that Mattie is much a deeper soul than we gave her credit for – which was Letts’ point.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Letts’ 2007 masterwork is now getting a dazzling South Florida premiere at Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables. Though artistic director David Arisco has built an award-winning track record with Broadway musical hits, this production of August: Osage County soars, placing it among the best work in the company’s long history. The regional Carbonell Awards for the best theater of 2011 won’t be bestowed for another year. But when they are, expect to see many of the artists involved with August: Osage County on the lists of contenders and winners.
Astutely cast and powerfully executed, the Actors’ production is nearly flawless. Yes, you could complain about the occasional muddiness of the miked sound or the inability, from certain seats, to see everyone during the cataclysmic family dinner-from-hell. But those are small things, given the wild ride Letts, Arisco and 13 terrific actors provide through a play with as many twists and turns as San Francisco’s famously crooked Lombard Street. And if you love great, edge-of-your seat theater, Actors’ August: Osage County is a ride you must take.
August: Osage County plays at Actors' Playhouse through April 10, 2011.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mondays are Dark

It's another week of some really great theatre stories for your Monday reading list.  Enjoy!

Coulda/Shoulda Beens
South Florida Theater Review weighs in on a topic near and dear to Theatre Scene commenters Anonymous, Anonymous, and of course, Anonymous: plays that could have or should have been on the list of this year's nominees.
I have nothing but respect for the judging panel, but when you have a “co-creative” process as theater people love to say, something inevitably gets lost.
Broadway in South Florida
The Miami Herald tells us about the Broadway stars who will be performing on South Florida stages over the next few weeks.

Here's a Picture of a Singer
The Producer's Perspective says that folks producing musicals are missing the boat.
There was a time when "concept recordings" were made of shows and released well before the opening date.  Webber did most of them, with Jesus Christ Superstar being the most famous, which he followed up with a concept recording of Evita (featuring Les Miz's original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson - who is awesome). 
Speaking of Producers
The Shiny Sheet talks with successful theater producers, Fran and Barry Weissler.
...the show that made their fortune was the revival of Chicago. The musical, which is still playing on Broadway 14 years after it opened, has been performed in 23 countries and, according to The New York Post, has posted a worldwide gross of nearly $2 billion.
Of course, not every show was that successful, and none of it was easy.

Behind the Scenery
South Florida Theater Review takes a close look into the scenic world of set designer Sean McClelland.

Unsung Underwriters
The New York Times reveals that there's a group of people subsidizing live theatre in the US, and it's not who you think.

The Critic's Stake
Minnesota Playlist has an excellent piece by a former theatre critic;
I'd be lying if I said it always pains me to write a bad review. As anyone who has done so knows, writing scathing critiques can be fun. It's an opportunity to show off wit and wisecracks, and in an age as ironic as ours, bad reviews can be fun to read. But there's something more at stake in a bad review than wit or irony. I panned shows because they were either aesthetically unpleasing, failing to arouse either pleasure or interest; or because they didn't represent the level of quality that I, as a critic, feel compelled to guard.

I don't mean this ironically: One of the critic's responsibilities is to promote theater that moves him or her.
Yet Another Arts Center
The Miami Herald reports that South Florida is home to yet another new venue: the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay.
“The center’s flavor will come from the smaller spaces around the venue where artists can engage the community,” Fliss said. “It’s my intention to bring national acts in and have them provide community workshops to local performers.”
And The Survey Says....
Broadway World reports that Florida Stage has tallied the votes, and popular demand has chosen ELLA, the musical created in Manalapan five years ago, as their next summer musical.  It's a good choice.

Court Order, Schmourt  Order
The Palm Beach Daily News reports that Kravis Center management  has still not settled with the stagehand's union.
Federal courts have ruled that the center engaged in unfair labor
practices when it fired six full-time union workers and ejected the
union in September 2000. The courts have ordered the center to negotiate
with the union and rehire the fired workers.
The Kravis Center is currently balking at paying the figure calculated by the National Labor Relations Board, a disinterested third party.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Scene for March 11, 2011

We're at the peak of theater season here in South Florida, and what better way to celebrate than with an ersatz "Letts Fest" in Coral Gables?  Actors' Playhouse and Gablestage are both opening plays by the award-winning playwright.  Did they co-promote?  Not that we've been able to see; apparently they completely missed the opportunity.


Tracy Letts' August: Osage County opens Friday at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater.

Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts opens Saturday at Gablestage.

you still haven't missed...

Florida Stage presents the world premiere of Ghost-Writer, through April 3.

The critics are raving about The Light in the Piazza  at The Stage Door Theatre, which plays through April 10.

Caldwell Theatre Company presents  Next Fall, through March 27, 2011.

Palm Beach DramaWorks is running Dinner with Friends through April 17. 

Grey Gardens makes its South Florida Premiere at the Rising Action Theatre, through April 3.

The Stage Door Theatre  production of Plaza Suite runs through March 20 has been extended to April 24.

The Jesus Quintero Studio re-emerges to present Hour of the Wolf, described as "creating an experience for the audience, rather than putting on a show."  Through March 20.

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

last chance to see...

The Boca Raton Theatre Guild production of Cabaret through March 13, 2011.

The critically acclaimed production of Eclipsed winds up its run at The Women's Theatre Project on March 13, 2011.

Empire Stage winds up The Houseboy on March 13, 2011.

Jolson at the Winter Garden finishes its run at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre on March 13.

passing through...

The national tour of West Side Story plays this weekend only at The Kravis Center (through March 13).

Jersey Boys returns to South Florida, this time stopping in at the Arsht Center through March 20.

s' Wonderful plays at Parker Playhouse through Sunday.

A Grand Tour: The Songs of Jerry Herman plays at the astonishingly busy Aventura Arts and Cultural Center through Sunday.

for kids...

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day plays at Actors' Playhouse through March 12.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Florida Stage: Ghost-Writer (4 reviews)

Florida Stage opened the regional premiere of Michael Hollinger's Ghost Rider on March 4, 2011.
A ghost story of literary proportions from the award-winning author of Opus. In this beautiful and evocative play, set in early 20th century New York, tragedy intercedes for a novelist before he can finish dictating his masterwork to his devoted secretary. Yet, somehow, she completes the story on her own in a voice that is unmistakably his. Or is it? An enormously moving tale of the power of love and literature. Delightfully rich and thoroughly theatrical.
Louis Tyrell directed a cast that featured J. Fred Shiffman, Kate Eastwood Norris, and Lourelene Snedeker.

Jan Sjostrom reviewed for The Palm Beach Daily News:
At its best, theater is a kind of magic, and there’s never been a more magical production at Florida Stage than Michael Hollinger’s Ghost-Writer... The play is being given a deservedly flawless production under the direction of producing director Louis Tyrrell.
Kate Eastwood Norris delivers an incandescent performance as Myra — proud, precise and determined.

J. Fred Shiffman’s formal Woolsey betrays his affection for his secretary in micro-gestures, such as a lingering touch on her forearm and oblique declarations of affection through his characters.

Lourelene Snedeker, splendidly arrayed in Erin Amico’s period dresses and engulfing hats, blazes as the unloved Mrs. Woolsey. She sweeps into the room, imperiously demanding her husband’s attention, yet all but splinters when she asks Myra whether her dead husband ever speaks of her.
Skip Sheffield reviewed for the Boca Tribune:
Ghost Writer is very wordy, literate, and knowledgeable about the mechanics of writing.  Playwright Michael Hollinger makes his living performing what is impossible for most people: creating and imaginary world and populating it with real and believable characters.
...There is no sex, no smoking gun, virtually no action.  Everything is internal, or implied or inferred.  There is a gorgeous, clever set by Kent Goetz, but precious little else going on.
The truth of the matter is that the act of not a spectator sport...
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Certainly, building a play around a writer’s life is a perfectly valid subject for drama or comedy (think anything from Long Day’s Journey into Night to Deathtrap). But crafting an engaging play that centers on the writing process? Ghost-Writer unintentionally suggests that approach is far harder to pull off.
Norris plays Myra with a tightly controlled intensity, the propriety and repression proper for a single woman of her day who spends so many hours with a married older man, her energy the only thing that pulls Ghost-Writer back from the brink of deadly dullness. Shiffman’s Woolsey would be no one’s idea of a literary lion, and Snedeker’s beautifully attired Vivian (the costumes are by Erin Amico) comes off as a jealous busybody rather than a wife with good reason to worry.

Observing this Hollinger-invented novelist and his amanuensis as they write is a bit more interesting than watching paint dry. But not by much.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Ghost-Writer is what would result if Henry James had written an episode of the Twilight Zone after he had read one too many Victorian romances. This device actually works in the written script and might in another production, but it’s only half-successful under Louis Tyrrell’s direction.
Florida Stage is virtually incapable of producing subpar work, but developing new works is bound to result in some productions that are less compelling than others. This play is intriguing, even thought-provoking, but there’s nothing compelling or enthralling on stage other than the ideas in Hollinger’s script. The sexual chemistry that is essential between the two main characters, repressed as they might be, is sadly nonexistent.
The main weakness is Shiffman’s creation under Tyrrell’s direction. While his performance is technically proficient, his Woolsey is not a repressed spirit yearning to break free, but instead a gray, drab, humorless man.

This gives Myra little to credibly pursue as an object of desire, little emotional heft for Norris to play off of and very little to drive the second half of the play. We need a Rex Harrison, a Clifton Webb, a Vincent Price in his early career. Other than Woolsey touching Myra’s bare forearm a couple of times as she types and an intentionally awkward dance lesson, we don’t see much going on between them. What is left on stage – and this was no one’s aim – is a watered down D.H. Lawrence tale of banked passion and a tragically missed opportunity, a well-written Harlequin romance.

Norris’s Myra is pleasant enough company for the 80-minute play and she delivers droll witticisms with a hint of playfulness.
The always dependable Snedeker isn’t called on to do much. But she has the best moment in the script which she executes perfectly, although Tyrrell’s pacing doesn’t even allow it a moment to sink in...
Florida Stage  presents Ghost-Writer at The Rinker Playhouse through April 3, 2011.

Stage Door Theatre: The Light in the Piazza (3 reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of  The Light in the Piazza on March 4, 2011.
The Light in the Piazza takes place in Florence, Italy, in the summer of 1953. A beautiful and innocent young tourist loses her hat in a gust of wind. It lands at the feet of a handsome young Florentine. They fall in love. As their relationship develops the girl's mother must reveal the truth that will surely test that love. It's Broadway's newest love story--with a thrilling score filled with honest emotion and soaring romantic melodies. Winner of 6 Tony Awards.
Michael Leeds directed a cast that included Gabrielle Visser, Lara Hayhurst, Dylan Thompson, Bruce Reybold, Tony Ramos, Jennifer Bennett, and Natalie Ramirez.

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
While the costumes, set and orchestrations for The Light in the Piazza are all pleasingly executed, it is the singing that makes this production momentous... This musical therefore requires trained, experienced singers thoroughly prepared and rehearsed. The Stage Door Theatre exceeds expectations with a cast that sings this musical with breath-taking beauty.
Gabrielle Visser focuses on the meaty acting of the role of Margaret in a way that almost makes one forget she is singing the majority of her dialogue. The transitions into speaking seem quite natural. It is a pleasure to see a well written part for a middle-aged woman in musical theatre that doesn't make her the sassy sidekick.
Natalie Ramirez (Franca) has the sexy appeal of a young Sophia Loren tied to a singing voice that rings with beauty. Jennifer Bennett as Signora Naccarelli has a brief moment of self-disclosure in the second act that reveals warmth and humor as well as a skillful singing voice.
Lara Hayhurst is a wonder as Clara. She possesses the physical and vocal beauty of the character, and captures the right child-like exuberance... when she gushes forth notes with effortless sweet abandon...
Dylan Thompson, as Fabrizio, masters singing his songs with an Italian accent that only adds to the romantic sound of his voice. Individually good musicians, Thompson and Hayhurst are even better when brought together. Stephen Sondheim has referred to Guettel's work as "dazzling," and that is exactly what this production is from the first note to the very last.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theatre Review:
To embrace the risk of hyperbole: The Broward Stage Door production of The Light in the Piazza may be the finest locally-produced musical theater since Floyd Collins at Actors’ Playhouse in 2003.
The most obvious asset is a nearly flawless cadre of skilled singers who can act. ...when Thompson breaks into the passionate declaration of love Il Mondo era Vuoto, you realize that almost the entire cast is that good.
Leeds has elicited pungent performances and staged the evening with a fluidity echoing the score. Just seeing the unapologetic, uncensored rapture suffusing the lovers’ faces is guaranteed to arouse the audience’s recollections of their own youth. You can feel the lovers and the parents achingly reach across the language barrier and the cultural prejudices to make a connection that encompasses all human endeavor.
....the set designed by Ardean Landhuis inventively solves the problem of Stage Door’s limited budget. The venerable arches may seem a bit too brand-new, but the scenes deftly change with sliding stage-high Renaissance and medieval paintings that echo the action. Clara and Fabrizio pledge their love before a huge canvas of ancient lovers doing the same. When Clara becomes lost in the city, panels glide around like ever-changing walls of a maze. The atmosphere is deepened by Andrew Meyers’ lighting communicating different locations, times of day, even the raging emotions inside the characters.
This Light in the Piazza can’t match the well-financed masterpiece production at Lincoln Center in 2005 – but it’s as close as any local company is going to achieve. If you want to see what musical theater can be, why it remains a vibrant and vital art form even today, get yourself to Stage Door.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...Broward Stage Door Theatre has crafted its own Light in the Piazza. And the performances — the element most critical to the success of this particular musical — impressively meet the demands of the piece.
Under Michael Leeds’ insightful direction, everyone from the leads to the supporting cast delivers strong performances and looks period-perfect in outfits by Marilyn Wick of Costume World Theatrical. Visser does a particularly haunting job with Margaret’s rueful rumination on her own marriage, Dividing Day. Thompson, possessed of a gorgeous and soaring voice, becomes a man possessed by love. In myriad ways both large and small, Hayhurst effectively underscores the child within a beautiful young woman. And as Fabrizio’s family, Bruce Rebold, Jennifer Bennett, Tony Ramos and Natalie Ramirez are straight out of a Fellini movie.
A Light in the Piazza plays at The Stage Door Theatre through April 10, 2011.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mondays are Dark

A busy week results in a good reading list - enjoy!

The President Supports the Arts
The Washington Post covers the presentation of this year's National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medals.

Lett's Have A Festival
The Miami Herald points out that two Coral Gables theatre companies are producing plays by Tracy Letts; Actors' Playhouse is producing August: Osage County, while GableStage is presenting Superior Donuts.  It's a good look at both productions.  Hmm, the two theatres should have worked out a package deal....

Must be Spring
The area's regional theaters are starting to announce their new season line-ups.  South Florida Theatre Review has the Florida Stage schedule, while The Drama Queen has the Caldwell Theatre and Actors' Playhouse announcements.  Highlights include the Playhouse's David Arisco taking the stage in Hairspray (do we have to tell you which role?), City of Angels at The Caldwell; and two different plays by Miami playwright Christopher Demos-Brown at two theatres (Caldwell and Florida Stage).

CFY returns to Jupiter
The musical Crazy for You was the last great hit for the Richard Aikens incarnation of the Jupiter Theatre, breaking all box office records to that point.  It was a very successful mounting of the show's first post-Broadway production, with Brian Chenoweth headlining the cast. Now, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, which broke that record (twice), is staging the show, and BroadwayWorld tells us about it.

Speaking of Jupiter
The South Florida Theater Review tells us that the Maltz Jupiter Theatre had an extremely successful fundraiser.
Its eighth annual gala, “A Night in Vienna” raised a record-setting $495,000, said development director Kathy Berman. Last year, the gala raised $325,000. The number of attendees jumped from 312 to more than 370.
They held the event at the Breakers.  Maybe Actors' Playhouse should take some notes; they're cramming almost twice that number into their theatre, and raising only about a third as much.

For Whom The Bell Tolls...
The Faster Times ponders the end of theatre criticism.
The question of whether theater critics are critical is really at least three questions:
Is theater criticism necessary for anybody or anything – like, say, for the theater?
Are theater critics too negative?
Is the field dying out?
Our own thoughts; whatever else one chooses to believe, theatre is about being seen and talked about.  Being seen and talked about by people who do so professionally implies that what we do must be worthy of such consideration.

When the critics are gone, coverage is gone, and interest will wane.  People have to know you're there, and a review is, for better or worse, an effective tool for spreading the word.  At the very least, it places awareness in the news.

While it's obvious that where there is no theatre, there is no theatre coverage, but consider that the reverse may actually be the more compelling truth: where there is no theatre coverage, there is no theatre.

Conundrum Pursues The Funny
Conundrum Stages talks about their upcoming showcase.

Down In The Rabbit Hole
The Playground Theatre's Stephanie Ansin is featured in this months' American Theatre Magazine, in an interview with Bill Hirschmann.
"I always want to address everyone's expectations and then turn them on their head," Ansin maintains
Speaking of  Wonderland
Broadwayworld reports that South Floridian Frank Wildhorn's musical Wonderland is getting a cast recording, and fellow South Floridian Janet Dacal is singing Alice. Congratulations to the entire cast and creative team!

Getting Into the Spirit
Palm Beach ArtsPaper takes a look at Ghost Writer, which just opened at Florida Stage.
“Florida Stage is one of about three or four theaters only that will get the first look. It’s really because I know it’s OK if my underwear’s showing a little bit,” he says sheepishly. “That they’ll look through that and see what I’m getting at.”
Arsht POV tells us about a new kind of event they are holding with The Miami Herald.
In January, more than 1,000 people descended upon the Miami Herald parking lot for their first-ever Street Food Truck Friday.
The next event is March 18, and will be themed to coincide with In the Heights.