Monday, October 31, 2011

Mondays are Dark

Happy Halloween! 
While Mondays are traditionally dark, Halloween is dark in a different way. You basically have two theatrical choices tonight; the Andrews Living Arts Studio production of The Rocky Horror Show, or a star-studded radio drama live on stage, War of the Worlds, presented by AirPlayz at the Caldwell Theatre.  Read about War of the Worlds on the South Florida Theatre Scene.

New Show
Zoetic Stage kicks off its season with Captiva, a new play by Christopher Demos Brown, and Miami Artzine talks with some of the creative team.

New Space
Palm Beach Dramaworks is getting ready to unveil its new digs at an old space; the former Cuillo Performing Arts Center, which was the former Burt Reynolds Institute Theater, which followed the Florida Repertory Theatre, which arose from the ashes of The  Stage Company, which turned a cinema into a legitimate theater that opened in November 1981.  Palm Beach ArtsPaper talks with artistic director Bill Hayes about the newly renovated space, while The Shiny Sheet talks to some patrons.  You can read up on the  history of 201 Clematis Street here.

The Dwindling Dozen
American Theatre Magazine's David Cote writes about the 12 most influential theatre critics in America.
...these 12 journalists made the cut for specific reasons: years on the beat, quality of writing, reach of their voice through syndication, and, lastly, understanding of the field. Another criterion is quite blunt: Many of them are "last man or woman standing" in their communities; after they retire or take a buyout, it's unclear if some blogger or junior critic will step up to fill the void.
The Miami Herald's Christine Dolen made the cut. She's not the oldest critic, but only one critic has been doing longer, and only just.  And he's ten years older.  Way to go, Christine!

It's A Problem Everywhere
Saving The World grumbles about the worst excuse for humans on the planet; theatre patrons.
...let’s all offer our congratulations to the adorable couple seated in seats E-23 and E-24. She stood in the aisle for ten minutes before the start of the show then took her seat as the overture began – those seats, of course, are right in the middle of the centre block, and so naturally she waited until everybody between those seats and the aisle had sat down, because otherwise there might have been someone in that row that she wouldn’t have been able to disturb. He took his seat 90 seconds into the overture, presumably to make absolutely sure that everybody had sat down after getting up to let his wife pass.
Deja Vu All over Again
Zev Buffman's back in Florida. Wait... didn't we just...? ....well, this time, Florida Theater On Stage tells us about it.

Tell Us All About It
The Z-Spot as audio clips discussing each of Zoetic Stage's upcoming plays.  Technically, not reading.  Well, maybe they're reading, from a script.  Whatever.

Let Me Count The Ways.
Theatre Washington has a list of ways theatre makes our lives better.

South Florida Represents
The Alliance Theatre Lab reports that two of its company members did well at The Harvest One Act Play Festival in New York. Mark Della Ventura, who's been making a name for himself on South Florida stages, was awarded Best Actor.  Congratulations!

Huddle Up!
Mosaic Theatre announces a series of celebrity talk-backs schedule in conjunction with their upcoming production of LombardiFlorida Theater On Stage also covers the story:

But there are talk backs and there are talk backs.  Mosaic Theatre in Plantation has scheduled a slew of talk backs for its upcoming show Lombardi featuring interaction with sports figures, sports journalists, one of Lombardi’s daughters and the television actor who played the title role during the drama’s New York run.
Going Once, Going Twice...

The Palm Beach Daily News reports that Florida Stage has finally gone to bankruptcy court, or at least, its CEO has.  The defunct theater's property goes on the auction block on November 13.

Read more...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Facebook Reviews

Bob Carter is the founder of The Actors' Workshop and Repertory Company.


In case you're using Internet Explorer (which seems to have an issue displaying clear images), the text reads:
"To all those who love theatre, and there aren't many of you left. Last night, we went down to Miami to see "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them", at the New Theatre. This is the play Juan Gonzalez Machain was in rehearsal for during "columbinus", at The Rep. The entire cast of three were something rarely seen in SoFla. The play is beautifully written, directed and performed. We were swept away by the very moving story of three young people coming of age in the early 1990s."

The critically acclaimed production of Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them  at New Theatre closes this Sunday, October 30, 2011. 

Read more...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Scene for October 28, 2011

For  your Halloween pleasure, there is not one but two productions of The Rocky Horror Show to choose from, although only one of them plays on Halloween.  Speaking of Halloween treats, you can sit in on the radio drama War of the Worlds this coming Monday at The Caldwell Theatre Company. Details can be found HERE.

So here's what's playing on The Scene this weekend:

opening...

Guys and Dolls opens at the Stage Door Theatre, where it will play through December 4th.


you still haven't missed...

The Caldwell Theatre Company has the critics raving about After The Revolution, Through November 20.

Rising Action Theatre offers a surprisingly strong production of Thrill Me:The Leopold and Loeb Musical. It plays at the Sunshine Cathedral through November 20, 2011.

The Actors' Playhouse production of Hairspray plays at The Miracle Theater through November 13, 2011.  It features the Playhouse's artistic director, David Arisco, as Edna Turnblad.

The Women's Theatre Project  presents Women Drivers at Sixth Star Studios through November 6, 2011, in Fort Lauderdale's funky F.A.T. Village Arts District.

Head straight up Flagler from the FAT Village to see the Infinite Abyss production of Mitzi's Abortion at Empire Stage.  It plays through November 5th.

The Stage Door Theatre's production of Lend Me A Tenor plays through November 13.


last chance to see...

The collaboration of the  University of Miami Theatre Department and the Arsht Center to present a Nilo Cruz translation of Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba ends its run at the Arsht's Carnival Studio Theater this Sunday, October 30.

The critically acclaimed production of Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them  at New Theatre closes this Sunday, October 30, 2011. 

Slow Burn Theatre's return engagement of The Rocky Horror Show closes this Saturday, October 29, after its final show at midnight.  Well, technically, that's Sunday morning October 30, but if you wait until Sunday to go, you'll miss it.

But if you do, the Andrews Living Arts Studio production of The Rocky Horror Show plays through to a special Halloween show on October 31.


passing through...

The Addams Family plays through October 30 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  It opens November 8 at the Kravis Center in West Palm, where it plays through November 13.

Mamma Mia makes yet another foray into South Florida at the Kravis Center, through October 30.  This tour has appeared on The Scene at least once a year since we started.  It may have something to do with the surprisingly large portion of the production that calls South Florida home.

The Gusman Center offers What My Husband Doesn't Know, through October 30.


for kids...

Actors' Playhouse presents Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on Saturdays through November 19.

Sol Children's Theatre Troupe
offers Afternoon of the Elves, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through October 30, 2011.

Area Stage offers The Jungle Book, this Friday and Saturday, and next Tuesday.

Mother Goose: A Pocketful of Rhymes plays this Saturday at The Rose And Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center at Nova Southeastern University.

Read more...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Play That Terrified a Nation.

This press release just in:

72 years ago, audiences were thrilled and horrified by a radio broadcast that took place Halloween night.  Aliens were invading!  No one was safe! 

The only thing was – it was all a creation of the brilliant Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre.  H.G. Welles’ War of the Worlds went down as the most infamous radio drama in history.

Now, South Florida audiences have the opportunity to relive this amazing broadcast – live on stage in Boca Raton.  War of the Worlds will be presented at 2 and 7 p.m. on October 31st the Count de Hoernle Theatre, home of the Caldwell Theatre Company.  Local favorite Gordon McConnell will direct a cast including Avi Hoffman, Dan Leonard and Laura Turnbull that will not only enact multiple roles, but also recreate the amazing sound effects utilizing authentic devices used in radio drama in the 1930’s. 

Another delightful aspect of the production is that all the locations will be transferred from New Jersey to Palm Beach County!  Thrill to aliens landing in a Delray Beach pineapple grove!  Listen in horror as the invasion marches down Clematis Street!  It’s the perfect entertainment for Halloween.  And best of all, the audience gets to be part of the action, with the actors and stage manager cueing you to provide the additional sound effects.

War of the Worlds is a presentation of AirPlayz, a company dedicated to the art of radio drama, produced by 2Watts Productions. Admission is $10, and reservations can made by calling 561-632-0517 or send an email to airplayzartsradio@gmail.com.

For more information on AirPlayz, visit artsradionetwork.com.  For media inquiries, contact Caroline Breder-Watts at 561-543-8455 or cbreder-watts@classicalsouthflorida.org.

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Slow Burn Theatre: The Rocky Horror Show (2 reviews)

Slow Burn Theatre Company revived its production of The Rocky Horror Show on October 21, 2011, for a brief, two-week run.  The show ran in the same slot last year.
We've left a light on for you. Return back to everybody's favorite fall vacation spot..the Frankenstein place. Slow Burn is remounting their crowd pleasing favorite The Rocky Horror Show LIVE!!! Christine Dolen of the Miami Herald called this production "RED HOT". But it's your last chance to see what all the fuss is about before we put this show back in the lab. Complete with audience participation. Slow Burn Theatre will have all ages doing the time-warp again!
Patrick Fitzwater directed a cast that included Larry Buzzeo, Noah Levine, Alexa Capiello, Renata Eastlick, Rick Peña, Miguel Quintero, Anne Chamberlain, Clay Cartland, and Matthew Korinko.  Musical Direction by Phil Hinton, Scenery by Ian T. Almeida, lights by Lane Blank, sound by Traci Almeida, and costumes by Rick Peña.

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
This well done production is sure to titillate timid theatergoers and satisfy the seasoned "Rocky" aficionados as well.
Larry Buzzeo is perfect as Dr. Frank 'N' Furter. His energy is endless, and he somehow manages to maintain a small degree of masculinity even in the makeup, bustier and heels. Those who have seen the film will note how strongly his performance is influenced by that of Tim Curry—in all the right ways.

Lindsey Forgey as Janet and Noah Levine as Brad work convincingly as the unassuming ingénues duped into the decadent world of Frank 'N' Furter. Miguel Quintero as Rocky looks every muscled-inch the part of Frank 'N' Furter's fantasy of the perfect man, though his acting and singing need a bit of polishing. Nicole Piro has the right feel for the evening from her very first line as the Usherette foreshadowing the events of the double-feature evening ahead. She seems mischievous rather than menacing—leaving the darker side for the tale waiting to unfold.

Patrick Fitzwater provides very clean direction, and more choreography than one would expect from this show. His use of the of three male and three female "Phantoms" in as many numbers as possible adds greatly to the show. The live four-piece band, led by music director Phil Hinton, keeps the score under control without letting the guitar and percussion run over the singers. The sound levels between the singers and the band are also perfectly balanced. The clean sound for this show means the only lines one may miss hearing are the ones shouted over by rowdy audience members.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theatre On Stage:
This paean to hedonism doesn’t need a critic’s affirmation. It is exactly what it wants to be: big, silly, mindless, nose-thumbing, irreverent fun. Yes, it’s a bit sloppy, and yes, the actual script sort of meanders and peters out. But this spoof of horror and cheesy sci-fi flicks that is at least one generation older than many revelers in its midnight audience is the dictionary definition of a hoot.
Any Rocky rises and falls and rises again on the re-animation of the Dr. Frank N. Furter, the sweet transvestite from Transylvania (the planet not the country).  Slow Burn wisely rehired Larry Buzzeo (I’ll bet no one dared stand in his way for this role) who seems born to don the fishnet stockings, spiked heels and glitter red lipstick. His prancing and pouting and come hither glances gave the show its necessary center. He didn’t embrace the campiness; he wallowed in it. Best of all, he’s got the belter’s voice to bend and bounce the lyrics off the back wall.
In fact, strong voices were scattered throughout the cast from Rick Pena’s ominous assistant Riff-Raff to Anne Chamberlain’s tap-dancing Columbia to Noah Levine’s out-of-his depth Brad to Lindsey Forgey’s winsome Janet, and especially, Nicole Piro’s double duty as the singing Usherette and insinuating Magenta.
Director Patrick Fitzwater kept the proceedings moving. But his real accomplishment was the daffy choreography that seemed stolen from a dozen MGM musicals.

Pena also scored with the color-drenched costumes, heavy on the boas and bustiers – and that was just for the men in the cast.

If the evening slowed a few times, there was never a let up from the propulsive band led by Phil Hinton.
Slow Burn Theatre Company's production of The Rocky Horror Show closes on October 29, 2011.

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Arsht Center: The Addams Family (3 reviews)

The national tour of The Addams Family opened at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on October 25, 2011.
It's every parent's nightmare. Your little girl has suddenly become a young woman, and what's worse, has fallen deliriously in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family. Yes, Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, has a "normal" boyfriend, and for parents Gomez and Morticia, this shocking development will turn the Addams house downside up.
Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch (with help from Jerry Zaks) directed a cast that included Douglass Sill, Sara Gettelfinger, Blake Hammond, Pippa Pearthree, Patrick D. Kennedy, Cortney Wolfson, and Tom Corbeil.

Camille Lamb reviewed for the Miami New Times:
While watching The Addams Family musical last night... we were struck by the realization that the entire pop culture phenomenon is basically an extension of the idea of "opposite day." Bad is good, gloom trumps happiness, death is preferable to life, weird is normal, and hideous is beautiful.

In keeping with this theme, we'd have to say the play was just terrible (as in great). It was witty, socially relevant, and sometimes surprisingly racy (we'd feared it'd be Disney clean). Its subtle stage stunts and zombie-like choreography -- all set to a decent musical score -- made for a simply disgusting theatrical debacle. The audience was so appalled, it took to its feet for three minutes at the end of the show, pounding its hands together in an aggressive display of disapproval.
Douglas Sills played the lovably goofy and macabre Gomez Addams, milking the exaggerated Spanish accent that is the character's signature...  The actor's performance -- and his singing -- became more vibrant (more gruesome?) as the show went on.
Sara Gettelfinger, who plays Morticia, ...capably channeled her character's mix of gal and ghoul, lamenting the loss of her daughter when not delighting in dreams of death and destruction.
A darkly nerdy comedy, probably suitable for the whole family (the sparse sex jokes would go over any 8-year-old's head), The Addams Family musical would make a good way to usher in Halloween with a laugh.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...if you go to see The Addams Family during its pre-Halloween run at the Arsht, you’ll probably have a good time. But you won’t be seeing a fabulous, flawless musical.
The Achilles heel of many a musical is the script, aka the book. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice... haven’t figured out a way to mine similar gold from the kooky travails of the comically creepy Addamses. Sure, there’s the occasional delicious zinger... But overall, the revamped story is a weak way of stringing together Lippa’s musical numbers.
Sills is simply masterful, with impeccable comic timing, a booming Broadway voice and first-rate dance skills, particularly on the sparklingly seductive Tango de Amor. Unfortunately, he has a less-than-ideal partner in Gettelfinger’s Morticia. Though she looks fresh-from-the-crypt sexy, the actress here puts the “dead” in “deadpan.”
The talented Vidnovic and Moore are constrained in clichéd roles, though Moore gets a breakout losing-her-mind number on Waiting. All three “kids” are terrific (Kennedy is especially cute-plaintive as Pugsley sings What If), and Pearthree’s Grandma and Tom Corbeil’s basso, string-bean Lurch are rock-solid funny.

But the show’s sweet, playful heart is Blake Hammond’s Uncle Fester. He’s utterly adorable... serving as the show’s narrator, he’s completely upbeat, excited and engaging. Wish I could share his enthusiasm.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Plot wise, (blah blah blah - ed.)....  Well, now that that's out of the way, on to the acting, dancing, singing, and they're all pretty damn good.
Douglas Sills is a standout as Gomez, his comic timing perfect as he stretches the silences after even the corniest of topical jokes, and believe me, there are a few of those.   Blake Hammond, as Uncle Fester, tops his performance with “The Moon and Me” and Patrick D. Kennedy as Pugsley grabs everyone's hearts with his “What If.”  Crista Moore... shines in “Waiting” as does Sara Gettelfinger as Morticia in “Death Is Just Around The Corner.”
The many sets... are cleverly designed and presented and unique use is made of the act curtain to frame each scene.  Lighting, costuming and puppetry are all excellent, but the sound is overpowering when the full company sings.   Solos are okay, but when everyone is in full belt it all just becomes noise.
...The Addams Family works well as musical comedy.  It's mostly funny, the songs are good and the performances are all they should be.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
If you saw the misbegotten mess on Broadway that was the musical The Addams Family, you may have heard the creative team tweaked the material for the road show that opened at the Arsht on Tuesday.

It’s a lie. This show wasn’t tweaked; it was overhauled from its cracked cranium to its rotting toenails. It may mark musical theater history: the first time that a road show was superior in nearly every department to the Broadway edition.
...this improved version is an unreserved delight. Get your tickets quickly; it’s only at the Arsht through Sunday and then moves to an equally brief run at the Kravis Center.

The humor is sublimely silly – in a good way – and it’s carried off with just the right combination of deadpan delivery and winking at the audience.
The re-animator of the show is “production supervisor” (meaning play doctor) Jerry Zaks. He was hired to rescue the 2010 show after its disastrous tryout in Chicago... Zaks has an artisan’s skill in crafting humor. You could see it after the short time he had to administer first aid to the Chicago production and it’s even more evident in the Frankenstein surgery he oversaw for this edition.... scores of arch looks and trenchant pauses, the precision timing of lines and the perfect pacing of the show, all reminiscent of George Abbott. More than most, his cast knows how to wait just long enough for the audience laughter to begin to subside before they resume the dialogue.
The Broadway cast contained solid troupers, but none of them other than Lane were as effective as anyone in this company. Every single performer here has a strong, polished voice and an assured skill delivering the comedy.
...Sills as Gomez – tall, dark, handsome, with a sex appeal that swashes and buckles with every flash of his eyes and rumble of his baritone. Sills... led the crew in dead perfect timing, intonation and uninhibited hambone-ey-ness. Students of musical comedy performance should take in the show just to see how it’s supposed to be done.
...the willowy Gettelfinger has a strange kind of reverse energy, which is perfect for the part. While she didn’t radiate much charisma, she slipped her punch lines into the proceedings like a scalpel.
Blake Hammond (remember his Alexander Woollcott in Florida Stage’s musical about the Algonquin Round Table, At Wit’s End?) makes an endearing narrator in Fester and, like everyone else, he has a rock solid singing voice plus a vitality to propel the evening. ...watching this tall roundish clown float around the stage is Lewis Carroll’s brand of whimsy.
...I never thought I’d write these words: Celebrate the holiday season and visit The Addams Family.
The Addams Family plays through October 30 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  It opens November 8 at the Kravis Center in West Palm, where it plays through November 13.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stage Door: Lend Me A Tenor (reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Ken Ludwig's Lend Me A Tenor on October 14, 2011.
Lend me a Tenor is a zany chain-reaction of mistaken identity, double entendres and innuendoes which took Broadway by storm and piled up Tony and Drama Desk awards
Michael Leeds directed a cast that included Clay Cartland, Ariel Frenkel, Janet Weakly, and Sheira Feuerstein,

Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...a delightful production at Broward Stage Door Theater in Coral Springs... a dizzying ride well worth taking.
On most levels, the Stage Door production, under the direction of Michael Leeds,  delivers. It starts out slow, but builds momentum. The chaos and the laughter really kick in once the second act is underway, when the show’s pace catches up with the lightning speed plot.
The ensemble excels, but there are standouts.  Janet Weakly is very funny as a high society opera patron dying for a moment alone with Merelli, and Sheira Feuerstein is deliciously over the top as the local opera singer who views Merelli as her ticket out of Cleveland.

But the show belongs to Clay Cartland as Max and Ariel Frenkel as Merelli.  Cartland, fresh off his bravura performance as a narcissistic millionaire in Promethean Theatre’s Song of the Living Dead this past summer, begins Lend Me a Tenor as Clark Kent and over the course of the play morphs in Superman, saving the day and getting the girl. Cartland delivers on both ends of the spectrum.
Frenkel is perfect as the world-weary Merelli. His performance as the befuddled tenor in the second act is delightful and the reason for much of the audience’s laughter.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wasted space in the Sun-Sentinel:
"Lend Me A Tenor" at the Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs almost has it all.

Alllllmost.

There are laughs (though with just a little more mugging, there could be a lot more).
Really? That's what it needs? Mugging?
There is music (a handful of operatic snippets are performed with gusto).

There's even sex (curiously treated both in a pre-code Hollywood way and a prim double-entendre manner).

It's all just enough when it comes to Ken Ludwig's comedy to pass the test, but oh how we wish for some extra credit. For with just a push here and there, this competent production could have been commanding.
How so? Is it the pacing? Is it the acting?  What's missing, Rod?
Part of the problem is the set, which looks a bit cramped... A farce like this needs breathing room and a grand hotel suite should feel more… well… grand.
And that is the only solid thing he actually says about this production.  Reading on, it's script script plot plot, oh what a review it's not.

Lend Me A Tenor plays at the Stage Door Theatre through November 13, 2011.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Caldwell Theatre: After The Revolution (5 reviews)

The Caldwell Theatre Company opened its production of Amy Herzog's After The Revolution on October 21, 2011
After the Revolution is the story of the brilliant, promising Emma Joseph who proudly carries the torch of her family's Marxist tradition, devoting her life to the memory of her grandfather, much revered for refusing to “name names” during the McCarthy hearings. But when history reveals a shocking truth about the man himself, the entire family is forced to confront questions of honesty and allegiance they thought had been resolved. After the Revolution is a bold and moving portrait of an American family, thrown into an intergenerational tailspin, forced to reconcile a thorny and delicate legacy.

Margaret M. Ledford directed a cast that included Jackie Rivera, Nancy Barnett, Gordon McConnell, Howard Elfman, Michael Small, Harriet Oser, Andrew Wind, Arturo Fernandez, and Tiffany-Leigh Moskow.

John Thomason reviewed for The Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Director Margaret Ledford paces the action beautifully, keeping every scene compelling and grounded, uncovering subtle nooks of humor and never succumbing to boisterous melodrama or preachy treacle. There isn't a weak link in the cast, though some stand out more than others. McConnell's performance is the embodiment of true beliefs and broken dreams, and Nancy Barnett — McConnell's real-life spouse — is a revelation as Ben's second wife, Mel. Her presence is warm, relatable, and poignantly authentic; she's not onstage nearly enough.
But this production's most genius touch — credit to Ledford and set designer Tim Bennett — is the towering, gleaming backdrop to the action. The story is set largely inside Ben and Mel's home... Images of Che, Marx, and Castro share wall space with family portraits, underlining the inextricable link between politics and family that consumes and divides the play's characters. It is his political beliefs, after all, that have guided Ben's every move, to the detriment of his loved ones.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Herzog has crafted an intriguing if imperfect family drama laced with social, political and historical references, one that resonates no matter what your own family’s world view may be.
Staged with sensitivity and finesse by Margaret M. Ledford, the Caldwell production features a cast of accomplished actors who create (mostly) vivid characters, though some have minimal stage time.

Rivera, a fine young actress, does well in the central role of Emma, though Herzog burdens the character with a childlike petulance.
McConnell and Barnett, husband and wife in real life, radiate a comfortable bond as Ben and Mel. Barnett is so emotionally adroit at playing a key scene about Mel’s own activist past that she gets richly deserved applause as it ends. And McConnell makes Ben a blustering lefty frustrated by his inability to truly communicate with a daughter he so loves and admires.
Though After the Revolution could use sharpening and tightening, Herzog’s warts-and-all look at a particular extended family has enough emotional universality that most theatergoers will feel the pull of its truths and conflicts as they savor its cast’s strong work.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The Caldwell Theatre Company’s season opener is a smooth, polished production ably led by director Margaret M. Ledford and performed by a persuasive cast that features Jackie Rivera and Gordon McConnell as daughter and father.
The most affecting moment occurs earlier when Emma (Rivera) has virtually cut off contact with her family. Her gentle stepmother Mel (Nancy Barnett in a welcome return to the boards) calls to try to reopen communication.
Credit Ledford for her guidance: No one outside the rehearsal room knows what she does to achieve this, but she gets personal bests out of many of the actors she works with.

For instance, Emma is a breakout performance for Rivera, a New World School of the Arts grad best known for playing troubled teens. She is absolutely convincing as a young woman committed to a cause down to her DNA.
McConnell gives another natural, convincing performance as a man facing consequences he had fooled himself into thinking might never come.
Notably, Howard Elfman, trapped for years in one-dimensional roles, recently has had the opportunity to exhibit a range that was always there. But with Ledford, his performance rises yet another level...
As the grandmother, Harriet Oser reminds us how cheated we are not to see her doing more work. Aided by Herzog’s most multi-faceted characterization, Oser and Ledford paint an elderly doyenne whose hearing is fading, but whose steely loyalty to the memory and myth of her late husband is unnerving.
Audiences might yearn for a little more outrage and angst among the Josephs, but Herzog, Ledford and company teach a life lesson about the tragedy of putting politics and pride before people.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Gordon McConnell and Jackie Rivera trying to reconcile as father and daughter, Nan Barnett lecturing Rivera on the phone, Michael H. Small begging McConnell to attend his son's ball game, Howard Elfman bequeathing his fortune, McConnell trying to understand and explain his own father's actions, Harriet Oser clinging to her dead husband's convictions, Arturo Fernandez breaking up with Rivera, Tiffany-Leigh Moskow as Rivera's wild sister...all acting gems on stage at the Caldwell Theatre in After The Revolution.
Taking advantage of every nuance in Herzog's writing, director Margaret M. Ledford and an excellent cast give us a fascinating look at hero worship, and its cost, within a family.
For all the fine work by the other cast members, it is Jackie Rivera, as Emma Joseph, daughter to McConnell's Ben Joseph, who gets the star bow at the curtain call.... Rivera has gone far beyond the happy kid of a couple of years ago when she was bringing down the house in Speech and Debate and A Behanding in Spokane.  She's playing her own age now and that wonderfully entertaining quirkiness of her previous work has matured into a solidity and presence that any might envy.
John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Jackie Rivera gives a standout performance as Emma... There is a real feeling of her coming of age in handling the disparity between the reality and the idealization of her liberal belief system. She manages the light touches of comedy in her banter with her family with a hand that diffuses the otherwise serious nature of her character. The final reconciliation scene with Gordon McConnell as Emma's father Ben is one of the truest acting moments in the show.
Nancy Barnett has an easy stage presence as comforting stepmother Mel. She and Harriet Oser, as Jo's second wife Vera, turn in performances that lead us to think we have either not seen them enough on stage, or have seen them in roles that didn't highlight their considerable acting skills.
...This production is well directed by Ledford... who manages to draw out the parts of the show that are about familial relationships, the parts that are about political ideology, and the parts where the two conflict to make an interesting story.
Well, let's see what Rod Stafford Hagwood is passing off as review for the Sun-Sentinel:
Deep, dark family secrets and generations-long lies are hardly innovative stuff for the stage.

But what at least feels new in playwright Amy Herzog's "After the Revolution" is setting this old arguing-across-the-dinner-table chestnut against the backdrop of hard-left politics. The acclaimed work getting a handsome production at the Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton was named one of The New York Times' Top 10 plays of 2010.
Let's see, script, script, playwright, script... ah, here's something about the production:
Nothing is as neat and tidily compartmentalized as Tim Bennett's set, a living room meant to represent different locations with just a suggestion from lighting designer Thomas Salzman...
Does that mean the set works?  Doesn't work?

He says nothing about the direction or the performances, until -
...the other characters – all well-played...
Uh huh.  So, it was a "handsome" production that had a set, lights, and characters. 
 
Thanks for nothing, Rod.

After The Revolution plays at The Caldwell Theatre Company through November 20, 2011.

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Rising Action Theatre: Thrill Me (2 reviews)

Rising Action Theatre opened its production of  Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Musical on October 21, 2011.
The South Florida premiere of the acclaimed musical based on the true story of Leopold and Loeb, the so-called thrill killers who murdered a young boy in 1924 in order to commit the perfect crime.
While this crime was previously depicted in the film dramas Hitchcock's Rope and Compulsion, this is the first musical version, and the most frank in revealing the couple's mutual sexual attraction. It has been performed in over 50 productions worldwide to great acclaim; its Off-Broadway run at the York Theatre was nominated for both Drama Desk and Outer Circle Awards.
Andy Rogow directed a cast that featured Christopher Michaels and Bryan C. Orgtega.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Grounded in fact, Thrill Me is a chamber musical that explores myriad facets of ugliness in what becomes a killer relationship. Loeb, at least as Ortega plays him, obliges Leopold’s sexual desires not out of any passion but merely as a way of getting Nathan to go along with his twisted plans. Michaels’ Leopold is flat-out addicted to Loeb. Nothing else, not even murder, matters to him.
Artfully accompanied by pianist Emmanuel Schvartzmann, the actors sing well, individually and together, as they bring their characters to creepy fruition. Ortega is particularly chilling as he sings Roadster, smiling and improvising as he entices the unseen Bobby into the car where death awaits. And there is a twist just after the two “superior” killers are caught, one that Michaels handles with just the right amount of relish.
Under director Andy Rogow, the production values are simple yet moodily effective, the piano so much better than recorded music, the small-scale musical just right for the space. Here’s hoping that, wherever Rising Action lands, the growth continues.
Michelle F. Solomon reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The intimate space, a small auditorium housed in the back of Sunshine Cathedral, provides yet another layer of drama for Rising Action Theatre’s taut production of the murder musical Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story.
Christopher Michaels as Leopold inhabits his character, giving a strong performance, both dramatically and vocally. This is the more demanding role of the two as the script calls for his character to frequently change moods ― from young, lovestruck college boy to a 53-year old prisoner facing a parole board 34 years later. Michaels handles the task with skill and the transition is never choppy. His Leopold is immature, nervous and nerdy, but also likeable.
Bryan C. Ortega as the arrogant and confident Richard Loeb plays the character true to its writing as a Nietzsche-worshiping “superior being.” It is fairly one note, all bravado and swagger, and Ortega seems to relish the opportunity to play master, rattling off orders to Leopold, his servant. His haunting schoolyard song “Roadster” is finely eerie, with perfect pitch and pacing as the stranger luring his bait.
Andy Rogow, Rising Action’s artistic director and a Chicago native himself, knows where to place the tension, then bring things back for a slight pause until amping it up again.
Thrill Me isn’t an easy undertaking, but the verdict is more than clear; Rising Action Theater’s production is must-see thrilling.
Rising Action Theatre presents Thrill Me; The Leopold and Loeb Musical at the Sunshine Cathedral through November 20, 2011.

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Mondays are Dark

It's closing day of the South Florida Theatre Festival!  The Theatre League marks the end of the festival with the Festival Closing Party, held at The Green Room in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The fun starts at 7pm.

Enter Outré
If we don't see you at the party, perhaps it's because you're attending Outré Theatre Company's premiere event, a reading of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at New Theatre.  Florida Theater On Stage has the details.

Outside Outré,
The Drama Queen also mentions the Outré Theatre Company reading, but also fills us in on a monologue boot camp run by Amy Miller Brennan, as well as the return to South Florida stages by two grande dames of theatre; 

Gin Got Game
The Drama Queen story features Jan McArt, but Florida Theater On Stage headlines Iris Acker, while Boca Magazine features playwright Tony Finstrom.  Both veteran actresses will be performing in a staged reading of Finstrom's Murder on Gin Lane.  The play will be read tonight at Lynn University, and then again at The Byron Carlyle Theater in Miami Beach.

Guess Who Else Is Back?
The Examiner tells us about the return of Laffing Matterz to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  It's been revamped, with all new material - and and updated menu - for the 2011-2012 season.

Speaking of Returns
He was a prolific producer of South Florida theatre back in the 70s and 80s, staging hit plays at Coconut Grove Playhouse, The Gleason Center, and the Parker Playhouse, among others.  And while he's not back in SOUTH Florida, Zeb Buffman's return to Florida as CEO of  Ruth Eckerd Hall is still noteworthy.  Read about it in BroadwayWorld.

Speaking of Revamping
The Miami Herald reports that the version of The Addams Family coming to the Arsht Center this week has been re-tooled and improved from the Broadway version.

Halloween Special
Florida Theater On Stage reports that AirPlayz is bringing The War of the Worlds to the Caldwell Theatre Company on October 31.  It's the full radio play that made Orson Welles, famous, performed by the Mercury Theatre on The Air back in 1938, complete with artists creating the sound effects live.

Five Questions
The Cultist asks GableStage Artistic Director Joe Adler to answer five questions.  But we have to take exception with interviewer Amanda McCorquodale's assertion that he alone has spared us from endless productions of Cats. Most, although not all, of the region's artistic directors are pretty contemptuous of it.
And we also suspect that if Joe could work in some sex and violence, he might attempt it.  "They're CATS; ya think they don't f*** in that junkyard?  They f*** like cats in heat!  Get it?  In heat?"  We can picture a big finalé where the cats jump through the air, disemboweling each other with their sharp claws in an orgy of bloodlust.  "Now that's a f***ing cat fight. Get it? Cat fight?"

From R&B to Theatre
The Stunned-Senseless Sun-Sentinel interviews Michele Williams.  The former member of Destiny's Child is appearing in What My Husband Doesn't Know, coming to the Gusman Center next week, and the Kravis Center the week after that.

Chita & Ben
The South Florida Sun reports that Broadway legends Chita Rivera and Ben Vereen will be heating things up at the Hard Rock Live on October 27.

New Line Up
Florida Theater On Stage reports that Caldwell Theatre is changing its season schedule; the bad news; they won't be doing City of Angels after all, choosing to replace it with Working, the patchwork musical based on the Studs Terkel collection of interviews with working class Americans.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Facebook Reviews

Because word-of-mouth is the best advertising.  And the most honest.





What shows do you recommend?

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Scene for October 21, 2011.

The South Florida Theatre Festival continues; the big wrap up party is on Monday in downtown Fort Lauderdale.    Or, you can check out Outré Theatre Company's premiere outing, a reading of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

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

opening...

The Caldwell Theatre Company opens After The Revolution, through November 20.

The Rocky Horror show opens at Slow Burn Theatre, but you've only got this weekend and next to do the Time Warp Again.

Rising Action Theatre opens Thrill Me:The Leopold and Loeb Musical. It plays at the Sunshine Cathedral through November 20, 2011.


you still haven't missed...

The Actors' Playhouse production of Hairspray plays at The Miracle Theater through November 13, 2011.  It features the Playhouse's artistic director, David Arisco, as Edna Turnblad.

As long as you're in Coral Gables, check out Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them  at New Theatre through October 30, 2011. 

The Women's Theatre Project  presents Women Drivers at Sixth Star Studios through November 6, 2011, in Fort Lauderdale's funky F.A.T. Village Arts District.

Also in the F.A.T. Village, Andrews Living Arts Studio production of The Rocky Horror Show plays through to a special Halloween show on October 31.

Head straight up Flagler from the FAT Village to see the Infinite Abyss production of Mitzi's Abortion at Empire Stage.  It plays through November 5th.

The Stage Door Theatre opens its production of Lend Me A Tenor, through October 30.

While we don't often cover college shows, when the University of Miami Theatre Department partners with the Arsht Center to present a Nilo Cruz translation of Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba,
you cover it.  That it stars Isabel Moreno and Elena Maria Garcia, it
only increases the interest.  It plays at the Arsht's Carnival Studio
Theater through October 30.


last chance to see...

Karen Stephens' reprise of her tour-de-force performance of Bridge & Tunnel at Bob Carter's Actors' Workshop and Repertory Company closes October 22.

TEMfest 2011, Miami's Spanish-language theatre festival, winds up on October 23.

For the interactive set, this weekend's your last chance to participate in John & Juan's Wedding at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  He's Cuban, he's Jewish, and they're both gay!   Tony & Tina will seem is tame in comparison.  Through October 23.

Cups ends its run at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center this Sunday.


for kids...

Actors' Playhouse presents Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on Saturdays through November 19.

Sol Children's Theatre Troupe
offers Afternoon of the Elves, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through October 30, 2011.

The Maltz Jupiter Theater presents Jigsaw Jones this Friday and Saturday as part of their PNC Kids Korner series.

Miramar Cultural Arts Center presents Mufaro's Daughters - An African Tale, this Saturday only.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Infinite Abyss: Mitzi's Abortion (reviews)

Infinite Abyss Productions opened Mitzi's Abortion at Empire Stage on October 14, 2011.
A Florida Premiere! With humor, intelligence and honesty, Mitzi's Abortion explores the questions that have shaped the national debate over abortion, and reminds us that whatever we may think we believe, some decisions are neither easy nor simple when they become ours to make. A generous and compassionate comedy with serious themes about a young woman trying to make an intensely personal decision in a system determined to make it a political one.
Jeff Holmes directed a cast that included Shelby Steel, David Tarryn-Grae, Kitt Marsh, Monica Garcia, Dominick Daniel, Phyllis Spear, Blaze Powers, and Ravi David Smitn.

Eileen Spiegler wrote for The Miami Herald:

Mitzi’s Abortion, an Infinite Abyss production at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale, powerfully lays to rest any notion that there are just two sides in the interminable battle, as well as the question of who is collateral damage, while raising many more.
Seattle playwright Elizabeth Heffron — and this wonderful cast — deserve credit for trying to serve up the proverbial “teachable moment” without didacticism.
When Mitzi’s doctor (Dominick Daniel, also doing a nice bit as her stepfather) has to deliver the worst news imaginable, a circle of imperfect but loving women are there with her, led by her gum-snapping, less than maternal mom Vera (Kitt Marsh, who is pitch perfect without descending into cliche).
But the play belongs to Steel’s sweetly uncertain, modestly striving and still hopeful Mitzi, a kind of blue-collar everywoman.
Once again, Infinite Abyss does a lot with a little set-wise, moving between living rooms, examination rooms and Mitzi’s job with a few spare pieces
Infinite Abyss Productions presents Mitzi's Abortion at Empire Stage through November 5, 2011.

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Mondays are Dark

Whew!  It was a busy weekend of openings, and there's a lot of good reading out there.

What's Old is New Again
Florida Theater On Stage brings us up to date on Palm Beach Dramaworks and its renovation of the old Stage Company/Florida Rep/Burt Reynolds Institute/Cuillo Center space.  Lotta bit of history there.  Broadway World reports that West Palm Beach is so excited about the return of theatre to Clematis street that they've declared the week of November 7-13th will be known as DramaWorks Theatre Week.

Mayo's Mandate
In last week's Sun-Sentinel, Michael Mayo weighs in on whether or not the Broward Center for the Performing Arts should receive funding support from one of its partners, the Broward County School Board.
My advice to the Broward Center: Shake those private money trees a little harder. If there's a way to do this without school funds, a lot of teachers and parents will shout, "Bravo!"
Capital budget, Michael; the capital budget can't be used for teacher salaries.  A little more examination of the facts would be welcome, but we get precious few facts in this article.

Our position; the Broward School Board has certainly wasted its capital budget over the last decade, and this leaves precious little for projects they should have been funding.  But if they don't fund the educational components of the PAC's renovation while they are pulling apart the building, there may be no opportunity to add it in once the PAC has completed the project.  The partnership between the PAC and the School Board has served as a model for projects across the country; a way should be found to continue it.

She's Back
The Examiner reports that Jan McArt will be gracing South Florida stages over the next few weeks.  McArt's Royal Palm Dinner Theatre was a fixture in Boca Raton for nearly 25 years before its debts overwhelmed it in 2001.

Speaking of Boca Raton
BroadwayWorld reports that Boca Raton's surviving theatre, the Caldwell Theatre Company, is set to open After the Revolution.

Got To Get You Into My Life
Butts in Seats examines the familiar problem of getting people to come to the theatre:
The question of “what exciting thing can I do tonight,” may be been replaced with “my life is so busy, what can I do tonight that doesn’t require me to get back in my car.”
Unsaid, of course, is the completion of that statement: "...and fight my way through traffic."  This isn't meant to be discouraging; but a clearer statement of the problem leads to better solutions.

Change of Title
Alliance Theatre Lab announces that it's moving -title of show- to next season, replacing it with Lobby Hero.

Speaking of Lobbies...
The Kansas City Star notes a trend in plays without intermissions.  And this surprises me; I didn't know they even had theatres in Kansas.  While this might seem like a good thing for audiences with a short attention span (or small bladders), it's a loss of revenue from intermission concessions.

Y'know, for Kids
Florida Theater On Stage reports that Promethean Theatre Company has a little Halloween project planned for kids.  It's not on their website, but you can get tickets here.

A Killer Musical
BroadwayWorld fills us in on the next play to open at the reconstituted Rising Action Theatre; Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story.

Captiva Cast & Crew
The Z-Spot fills us in on who's who in the upcoming Zoetic Stage production of Captiva.

In the House
The Miami Herald gives us some background on the UM/Arsht center partnership behind The House of Bernarda Alba, while Florida Theater On Stage provides photographs of the production.

It's a Brisk November in Broward
The Examiner finds a lot of stuff happening at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in the next month.  Beauty and the Beast, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the return of Laffing Matterz are just a few of the events opening in November.

The Ooky Line-Up
Broadway World reports that the full casting for the national tour of The Addams Family Musical has been announced.  The show makes a brief stop at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts next week.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Actors' Playhouse: Hairspray (6 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater opened its production of HAIRSPRAY on October 14, 2011 following two preview performances.
A joyous tribute to the ‘60’s, this intelligent and hilarious musical has the best Broadway score in recent years. It’s 1962, and pleasantly plump Baltimore teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire, to dance on the popular “Corny Collins Show.” When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star, but she must use her new found power to vanquish the reigning teen queen, win the affections of her heartthrob Link Larkin and integrate a TV network – all without denting her 'do!
David Arisco directed a cast that included himself as Edna Turnblad, Avi Hoffman, Joline Mujica, Mathew Ragas, Ronald Duncan, Julie Kleiner, Christopher A. Kent, Kim Cozort, Talitha Farrow, Renata Eastlick, Tatianna Mott, ShainStroff, Marcus Davis, Celia Louise Merendi, Sally Bondi, and Avery Sommers.  Barbara Flaten served as assistant  director and choreographer, with musical direction by David Nagy.

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre kicks off their 2011-12 season with a sensational production of Hairspray.
David Arisco as a director has more than done justice to the show by lacing it with kitsch and comedy, and Barbara Flaten provides wonderfully choreography danced with exuberance by a cast of nearly thirty.
There are so many that are perfectly cast in this production that one actually hates to see their moments end, as the show returns to the business of furthering the plot. The combination of a bear-sized David Arisco as Edna Turnblad and an endearingly elvish Avi Hoffman as her husband Wilbur is scene-stealing at it's very best... Microphone issues on opening night plagued actor David Arisco. As a director who only takes the stage on occasion... it seemed most unfair to not hear every line of a role in which he shines.
Avery Sommers (Motormouth Maybelle) really just warms up in.. in the first act. She releases a powerhouse voice, packed with passion in her second act... that nearly stops the show.
Joline Mujica is likable as Tracy Turnblad, but comes just shy of capturing the infectious energy of the role. This may be due in part to microphone issues. Her voice is sweet, but we never get to hear it soar.... Matthew Ragas... does a great job as Link Larkin, avoiding the shallow portrayal provided by Zack Efron in the film. Her quirky friend Penny Pingleton is played by a very funny Julie Kleiner who emerges as a bombshell in her final transformation.

Some of the success of this production comes from the cameo roles. The trio of Talitha Farrow, Renata Eastlick and Tatianna Mott as "The Dynamites," an iconic girl group of the time period, are spot on. Beautiful to both see and hear, they provide a great reminder of the flavor of the '60s. Even Sally Bondi, appearing in a series of older character roles gets a chuckle in each one.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
...who else but Actors' Playhouse throwing a stupendous party with Hairspray, the Tony winner now playing in Coral Gables.

And who are the guests?  Why just 33 of the best actors, singers, dancers, and musicians you can possibly imagine.
...just revel in Joline Mujica as Tracy Turnblad, singing and dancing her way to fame as Miss Teenage Hairspray, despite the machinations of the hilarious Kim Cozort as Velma Von Tussle, TV producer and all around rat bag and Celia Louise Merendi as her back scratching, eye gouging daughter...  Matthew Ragas plays... Link Larkin with all the right moves... the furiously dancing and singing Ronald Duncan as Seaweed J. Stubbs, whose mother, Motor mouth Maybelle, just happens to be the great Avery Sommers.  And then, of course, it's director David Arisco svelting up the joint in drag, as Tracy's mother, Edna Turnblad...
Thirteen other actors put the meat on the bones of Hairspray ...and they're all damn good.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
For the South Florida regional theater debut of the Tony Award-winning 2002 Broadway smash, Arisco has assembled what is simply the finest musical theater cast in town, himself included. And though it isn’t really easy to direct and star in a show, Arisco pulls it off beautifully, with ample help from his inspired choreographer, Barbara Flaten.
...from the abundantly gifted leads to the multitasking chorus, the cast delivers all of the show’s silliness, sweetness and touching truth.
Arisco, a mountain of a (wo)man, cast the diminutive Avi Hoffman as Edna’s supportive hubby Wilbur, and beyond the sight gag that happens every time they’re together onstage, they whip up an adorable chemistry... Mujica’s peppy, ebullient Tracy makes it easy to understand why dreamboat Link falls for her. Kleiner is a comedic gem as Penny, Ronald Duncan an awe-inspiring dancer as her beau Seaweed. As the bouffant-blonde mother-daughter villains, a brilliant Kim Cozort and Merendi demonstrate just how ugly pretty women can be. And big-voiced Avery Sommers, who plays Seaweed’s mama Motormouth Maybelle, goes two for two in stopping the show with each of her showcase songs, Big, Blonde & Beautiful and I Know Where I’ve Been.
Sure, maybe you’ve seen one of the earlier versions of Hairspray – the Waters movie, the Broadway show, the touring version, the 2007 movie musical. But the thrill of watching so many fine South Florida actors making the show their own? That’s worth a fresh, powerful shot of Hairspray.
Bill Hirschman offers an uncharacteristically harsh review for Florida Theater On Stage:
The tragedy of Actors Playhouse’s lavish and ebullient production of the musical Hairspray is how the muddy, uneven, out of balance, sloppily cued sound on opening night fatally sabotaged what might have been a triumph.
Christine hinted at the sound problems, and several patrons mentioned it to us; but Bill has apparently is through with giving allowances.
That means evaluating this hilarious satire on the music and mores of the early 1960s has to be done through undependably foggy glasses. What can be glimpsed is a promising hoot: a vigorous and talented 26-member cast, a solid pit band, glorious choreography and stunningly silly costumes all in service of one the funniest scripts and scores since The Producers.
...the headline is David Arisco, the Kodiak-sized artistic director doing double duty as the production’s director as well as wearing the double EE bra and bouffant wigs of Edna Turnblad.
He’s especially deft in sidestepping the treacherous pitfalls of playing a woman without winking too hard through the fourth wall. His baritone voice, masculine mug and girth keep the performance appropriately distanced from the half-baked clichés of a female impersonator. Instead, Arisco plays Edna’s growth from someone too self-conscious to leave the house to someone willing to burst onto national television to parade her new-found pride.
But his oddly-restrained performance, as unimpeachable as it is, doesn’t top the list of the show’s virtues. High on that roster is Avi Hoffman portraying Edna’s husband, Wilbur, the gentle and genial joke factory inventor who unreservedly loves a wife who could crush him in one paw. Hoffman’s performance of an irrepressible dreamer is a comic masterpiece.
The show would not work without a sparkplug in the role of Tracy. Here, Joline Mujica, a University of Miami graduate who has played the role twice before, hurls enthusiasm across the footlights, especially when dancing.
In fact, the two true stars of the production are not performers. Barbara Flaten’s high-stepping, sinuous choreography is synthesized from a dozen senior proms and cheesy telecasts... Then there’s Ellis Tillman’s cornucopia of costumes constituting the most wicked yet affectionate satirical statements in the entire show...
Kudos are due, too, to musical director David Nagy and his eight-piece band for recreating the glorious score...
Despite the crippling problems – which may or may not get ironed out by the time you read this — the season opener at Actors’ Playhouse is a bravura, even epic undertaking that has to be applauded.
Camille Lamb penned a review full of purple prose for the Miami New Times:
The Actors' Playhouse production of Hairspray last night at Miracle Theatre made our hearts swell so big with Miami pride that we came close to filling Edna Turnblad's (David Arisco) size triple E bra cups. The small cast poured its blood and sweat into every scene, energetically building and maintaining a playful atmosphere of early '60s innocence from curtain to curtain.
As Tracy Turnblad, Joline Mujica's performance was fantastic. Appearing like a cheery, grown-up Cabbage Patch doll, her precise movements made her interesting to watch, while her perfectly plastic wide-eyed and toothy facial expressions brought back memories of Ricky Lake in the original John Waters movie.
Matthew Ragas... seemed to have been born to play the delicious crooner heartthrob. Handsome and coordinated, he came pretty close to actually making us swoon when he strutted out in his sexy fitted silver-gray polyester suit...
This review wouldn't be complete without a mention of David Arisco's "divine" and understated performance as the large and lovely Edna Turnblad. Making no effort to throw his voice, Arisco still succeeded in playing what we slowly came to accept as the enormous yet feminine matriarch.
Few things have made us laugh harder than watching Arisco dance and sing a duet with Hoffman, the diminutive, jolly actor who played husband Wilbur... the two had an utterly mesmerizing chemistry as they embraced and melodiously assured each other, "You're Timeless to Me." Weird, hilarious, and captivating, all at once.
We could fill pages detailing the obvious effort put forth by each talented cast, orchestra, and behind-the-scenes player. But we'd like to mention one other thing about this show at the risk of sounding like a public service announcement: good for the Actors' Playhouse for choosing a musical that brings some diversity to the stage. South Florida is such a culturally colorful place to live; it's about time we produce and support some popular theater that represents the heterogeneity of our community.
Remind me not to play Scrabble with Camille.

Richard Cameron reviewed for The Examiner:
Actors’ Playhouse entertaining cast of Hairspray includes Florida's "A List" of actors, with best performances in the show given by Artistic Director David Arisco as (Edna Turnblad),  Avi Hoffman as Edna's corky husband (Wilbur Turnblad), Sally Bondi's dead-on performance of the prude racist Mother (Prudy Pingleton) and... Avery Sommers sings the show stopping number " I know Where I've been"....
Joline Mujica (Tracy Turnblad) wins the audience over... Matthew Ragas gives a wonderful performance vocally and physically.  Matthew was in the national tour and is definitely an audience favorite. 
All of the ensemble were energetic and brought excitement to the group numbers.
The Actors' Playhouse production of Hairspray plays at The Miracle Theater through November 13, 2011.

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