Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2011 Knight Arts Challenge Winners

From the Miami New Times:
Out of over 1,300 applications, the 2011 winners include a Winter Shakespeare Festival from GableStage, more Weird Miami Bus Tours by Bas Fisher, an expanded artist residency in the Everglades, and aqua scapes at MIA by Coral Morphologic. Read on for the full list of winners, projects, and glorious art-funding dollar signs.

Here are the theatre companies that were awarded grants:

Training, Mentorship for Playwrights
Project: CityWrights Miami - A Professional Weekend for Playwrights
Recipient: City Theatre
Award: $75,000

Winter Shakespeare Festival Brings Together Royal Shakespeare Company and GableStage with Acclaimed Local Playwright
Project: Winter Shakespeare Festival - New Audience, Old Master, Outdoors and Free
Recipient: GableStage
Award: $120,000

Latino Theater Greats to Participate in International Hispanic Theatre Festival
Project: Miami: Hispanic Cultural Capital of the U.S.
Recipient: Teatro Avante
Award: $150,000

Mentors for African-American Playwrights
Project: New Play Series
Recipient: The M Ensemble Company
Award: $25,000

Congratulations!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mondays are Dark

House for the Holidays.
Broadway World reports that Conundrum Stages will present its second annual production of Holiday House on December 13.
Once again, they are giving audiences a slew of performances representing different facets of the Southeast Florida talent scene. A collage of theatre, music, dance, plus various arts and entertainment will be on hand promoting the Tri-county area.
New Theatre Leaves Coral Gables
New Theatre announces that it will be sharing space with Roxy Theatre Group, out near the FIU South Campus.  Florida Theater On Stage broke the story, which has since been followed up by The Drama Queen, The Miami Herald, and The Examiner.  From The Drama Queen:
"The theater community has been incredibly generous in offering us different kinds of support," says Ricky J. Martinez, New Theatre's artistic director.  "But the day we went to Roxy, they said, 'We want you here, now.'  We felt the choice to go to Roxy was synchronized with our vision, and our shows fit into their schedule."
The first show in New Theatre's new home will be Twain and Shaw Do Lunch, opening December 2.  You can read about the show on BroadwayWorld and The Miami Herald.

Extended
Two plays have been extended; RED at GableStage, and The Prisoner of Second Avenue at Miami Stage Door TheaterBroadway World tells us about RED, and The Drama Queen tells about both of them.

Speaking of RED
Florida Theater On Stage takes a deeper look at the play, and talks with the actors performing in the GableStage production.

Nuts for Nutcracker?
If you want to take you child (or inner child) to see the classic Christmas ballet, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, the Sun-Sentinel runs down all the various productions in South Florida.

Speaking of Christmas Classics
The Examiner reports that A Christmas Carol will be playing at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, December 9-11.

Vocal Coach
Florida Theater On Stage interviews Ray Abruzzo, who's playing the title role in Mosaic Theatre's production of Lombardi

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Scene for November 25, 2011

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving; avoid the hassle of Black Friday - go see a play.  After all, the REAL best deals of the season start January 2nd, as stores clear out the merchandise that didn't sell for the holidays, and all those returned items.

Here's what's playing this Holiday weekend:

you still haven't missed...

Palm Beach DramaWorks launches its new space with a critically acclaimed production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.  Through December 11.

Mosaic Theatre presents Lombardi through December 4.

The M Ensemble's production of Radio Golf at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse plays through December 8.

Guys and Dolls plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through December 4th.

The Miami StageDoor production of The Prisoner of Second Avenue runs through December 11.  Yes, the websites are now separate.

GableStage's  long-anticipated production of RED runs through December 4 has been extended to December 11, 2011.

Laffing Matterz returns to the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room, for its third season of dinner and comedy. 

last chance to see...

The Alliance Theatre Lab presents Lobby Hero through November 27.

Thinking Cap Theatre offers Death for Sydney Black at Empire Stage, through November 27th.


passing through...

The national tour of Disney's Beauty and the Beast casts its spell at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts  through November 27.


for kids...

A Day in the Playground plays at Area Stage through December 6th.

The Red Thread
returns to The Playground Theatre, through December 18.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mondays are Dark

I'd Buy That for a Dollar
The Miami Herald reports that the Coconut Grove Playhouse's board wants the county to take the theatre off their hands.  And they're only charging a buck.

Back on the Boards
Nancy Barnett shares her insights after returning to theatre as an actor after a too-long hiatus, on 2AMTheatre.
Suddenly, gratefully, I was back in a rehearsal hall. And I found myself looking at the process of creating a production with new eyes, observing the strangeness of the language and actions of the profession. What actors do is really pretty odd.
BTW, I caught her performance in After the Revolution; and she has lost nothing in the interval. She effortlessly makes everything look like it's the first time she's doing it.

Star Makes Her Debut
Kathleen Turner, who has appeared at The Royal Poinciana and The Coconut Grove playhouses, makes her "Fort Lauderdale debut" at the Parker Playhouse.  Broadway World tells us about High, her latest theatrical venture.

Next Generation
The Miami Herald reports that GableStage is trying to create the next generation of theatre-goers.

Miami Make Ogre
BroadwayWorld reports that Shrek is coming to the Arsht Center.

Avery Sings
Avery Sommers brings her cabaret act to The Colony, and Palm Beach Artspaper is there.

Cubby's "Hot" Pick
Generally, when an editor chooses a production to plug, it's something amazing or groundbreaking, an artistic risk of some sort.  Unless you're James Cubby of Miami Artzine, who went with Neil Simon's A Prisoner of Second Avenue.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Scene for November 18, 2011

OK, we've had a busy week collating all the reviews of all the shows that have opened in the last two weeks. Lots of stuff to see, but more importantly, more stuff worth seeing.  No big openings this weekend, but a lot of kid's shows are playing.

Check out this week's Theatre Scene:

you still haven't missed...

Palm Beach DramaWorks launches its new space with a critically acclaimed production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.  Through December 11.

Mosaic Theatre presents Lombardi through December 4.

The Alliance Theatre Lab
presents Lobby Hero through November 27.

Forever 54
, the new musical by Tommy Tune, opens at the University of Miami's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre.  You can read about on Florida Theater On Stage.

The M Ensemble's production of Radio Golf at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse plays through December 8.

Thinking Cap Theatre offers Death for Sydney Black at Empire Stage, through November 27th.

Guys and Dolls plays at the Stage Door Theatre through December 4th.

GableStage's  long-anticipated production of RED runs through December 4, 2011.

Laffing Matterz returns to the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room, for its third season of dinner and comedy. 

last chance to see...

The Caldwell Theatre Company's critically acclaimed production of After The Revolution ends its run on November 20.

Rising Action Theatre surprisingly strong production of Thrill Me:The Leopold and Loeb Musical winds up its run at the Sunshine Cathedral on November 20, 2011.

Zoetic Stage presents Captiva at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through November 20, 2011.

The Tale of the Allergist's Wife at the Boca Raton Theatre Guild plays through November 20.


passing through...

The national tour of Disney's Beauty and the Beast casts its spell at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts  through November 27.


for kids...

A Brown Bear, A Caterpillar And A Moon plays at the Miramar Cultural Center on Friday and Saturday.

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

A Day in the Playground plays at Area Stage through December 6th.

The Red Thread
returns to The Playground Theatre, through December 18.

Thinking Cap Theatre: Death for Sydney Black (4 reviews)

Thinking Cap Theatre opened its production of Death for Sydney Black at Empire Stage on November 10, 2011.
Thinking Cap Theatre presents the world premiere of Leah Winkler's new play, Death for Sydney Black, a dark comedy in the vein of Heathers, Mean Girls, and The Devil Wears Prada with a dash of Cinderella.
Nicole Stodard directed a cast that included Shira Abergel, Axy Carrion Bannon, Desiree Mora, Monica Quintero, Erica Schiff, and Sarah Siegel

Michelle F. Solomon reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The ambitious Thinking Cap Theatre, now in its second season, breathes life into Leah Nanako Winkler’s absurdist play about the dog-eat-dog world of high school hierarchy in Death for Sydney Black at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage.
Artistic Director Nicole Stodard chose the right play in Sydney Black to give her troupe the chance to stage a world premiere. With its socially conscious message (although the subject matter is well worn) and its unencumbered form and style, it fits her company’s mission. It is a challenge, for sure, to pull off a play like Death For Sydney Black, but Stodard as director has found a way to make it work in the small Empire Stage space. The pacing could be picked up just a bit, but given a few more performances, Sydney Black should find its groove.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Described as a “response” to movies like Heathers, Mean Girls and Bring It On, Winkler’s script is meant to comment on and deconstruct those movies, which present high school as a painfully stratified, kill-or-be-killed nightmare.
Directed by Stoddard in a bare-bones production at Empire Stage, Death for Sydney Black simply apes the genre, throwing in loads of f-bombs, sexually denigrating dialogue and a couple of back stories that involve sexual molestation by relatives. It is not, in any way, enlightening or intriguing.
The brightest light in the production is Abergel, whose Jen is infinitely watchable, game for anything and quite funny. Strumming the ukulele, whistling, rapping, Abergel is tonally perfect, using her expressive face and body to inject her dialogue with layers of meaning. No one else comes close.
Rod Stafford Hagwood was there for The Sun-Sentinel:
There's a play somewhere in Death for Sydney Black, and it probably would center itself more on the ukulele-playing sidekick than the title character.  But it never quite materializes out of the mist... The comedy just can't seem to grab a firm hold on any one performance level, with skills varying so widely as to hardly share the same universe.

With sharper, more stylized performances all around, the point about relationships between girls might solidify. Where is that hormonal heat that heightens everything in high school?
Phillip Valys also wrote for the Sun-Sentinel:
"Sydney White's" consummate tongue-in-cheekness is lifted by strong performances from Thinking Cap's ensemble, while the crew's technical prowess gleams in sequences that drift, rapid-fire, between Abergel busting out into Vanilla Ice-caliber freestyle raps ("[Sydney Black's] got a big booty like a Honda, her fair skin's attracting all the anacondas") and "Moron Cheerleader" (Erica Schiff) complaining how cheerleading has turned her into an anorexic.

But it's Abergel's skillful portrayal of Jen – the play's de facto omniscient narrator – that stuns: Sporting a geeky, long-sleeved sweater, suspenders and an orange T-shirt adorned with the picture of a dictionary, she's a walking hipster parody. Between transforming into Nancy's pet dog ("to serve the story," she claims) and bursting into several stripped-down ukulele folk numbers that sound ripped from the "Juno" soundtrack, Abergel's versatility shines in a play that sometimes angles too hard for laughs but is a worthy tribute to grittier teen comedies.
The Thinking Cap Theatre production of Death for Sydney Black plays at Empire Stage through November 26, 2011.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Zoetic Stage: Captiva (6 reviews)

Zoetic Stage opened its production of Christopher Demos-Brown's Captiva on November 4, 2011.
Over the course of a weekend reunion, three siblings come together in the hopes of celebration and re-connection.When their parents join them, rivalry, sex and a hurricane turn the family upside down. Stranded together, they are forced to face each other with honesty and bottles of wine. Captiva is a smart and stinging contemporary comedy about family, fear and the future. From the Carbonell-Award winning playwright of When The Sun Shone Brighter.
Stuart Meltzer directed a cast that included Kati Brazda, Todd Allen Durkin, Nicholas Richberg, Amy McKenna, Barbara Bradshaw, Amy Ione Alvarado, and Bill Schwartz.

John Thomason reviewed for Boca Magazine:
...every once in a while a show like “Captiva” comes along, a play so absolutely extraordinary that it’s hard to imagine it was written by a homegrown Florida writer and not the latest darling from Broadway... this modern masterpiece is worth the drive down; you’ll be able to say you were one of the first audience members to see a show that will surely move to other markets.
...revelations tend to spill from the characters, each one triggering the next like dominoes, in a busy second act that takes place partly in the dark, after a stormy power outage creates emotional pandemonium that is managed with extraordinary aplomb by director Meltzer.
If and when “Captiva” plays beyond South Florida, it will likely earn comparisons to Tracy Letts’ Broadway hit “August, Osage County,” which also explored the collapse of an extended American family. But “Captiva” is better, because it’s funnier and less didactic. I think a stronger comparison would be to filmmaker Robert Altman will a dollop of onetime Altman collaborator Raymond Carver – not just because it borrows the bustling ensemble casting of so many Altman films, with their overlapping dialogue, but in its manner of staging. “Captiva” is a play in CinemaScope, if that makes any sense. The cabana is like a widescreen canvas, where actors emerge from the dressing room simply to relax on set, and the spectator has a degree of control as to what he or she chooses to look at at any given time. It’s a liberating feeling for a play, one of many reasons to experience this wonderful production.
Hap Erstien reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Carbonell Award winner Christopher Demos-Brown’s new script, Captiva, was scheduled to have its world premiere this season at the now-defunct West Palm Beach company. Fortunately, this dysfunctional family reunion play was quickly picked up by Miami’s fledgling Zoetic Stage where it is currently playing and receiving a vigorous, darkly comic production from the troupe’s acting ensemble.
If Demos-Brown’s earlier political drama When the Sun Shone Brighter did not convince you of this lawyer-turned-playwright’s talent, the versatility he shows with the vastly different Captiva should persuade you he is the real deal.
Matthew is handed many of Captiva’s best lines, but Durkin certainly knows how to deliver them for maximum comic effect. Brazda is required to keep Val enigmatic, which works to her disadvantage in forging a concrete character, but she gains and retains audience empathy from the start. And for her non-musical debut, Alvarado manages to hold her own in this accomplished company.
...after seeing Captiva, you are likely to seek out other work by Demos-Brown, as they surface both locally and nationally.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Oh great!  Another family reunion and the clichéd all hell breaks loose.  Done before?  Many times.  But not like Christopher Demos-Brown does it in the world première of his witty, intelligent Captiva...
This is a good cast doing justice to Demos-Brown's literate, funny and engrossing script, but I have to tell you my eyes were never far from Durkin and Richberg.  Todd Allen Durkin is so easy and confident on stage that, no fault of his; he's simply a natural scene-stealer.  And Nicholas Richberg is right there with him.  Where Durkin scores with his slyly blustering, tear everything down performance, the always-listening Richberg delivers a subtly nuanced Luke who's immediately captivating.
It's a good evening at the theatre, watching this unveiling of Captiva, well directed by Stuart Meltzer who puts us inside the family right from the beginning.  The show, as written, is a little too long and loses some of its frantic first act pace after the intermission.  Although the weekend cottage is in the heart of a hurricane, power out, rain, lightning and thunder, little notice seems taken by the family as they drink and bicker and tell their sad tales.  But they're still damn funny.
Camille Lamb reviewed for the Miami New Times:
...it's smart as hell and funnier than a supermodel taking a dump.
Holy shades of Brandon K. Thorp!  (Sorry, couldn't resist.  Ed.)
...Richberg's performance as the uptight academic seemed forced at the outset of the play, but blossomed by the end of the first act.

Durkin
, on the other hand, exhibited comedic brilliance. His imposing beer belly bumbled back and forth across the stage, and his floppy appendages followed, giving him the look of a guy rendered permanently doltish as a result of consuming too many Coors Lights in the direct Florida sunlight. A combination of really funny writing and really well-timed delivery made this Belushi-esque actor (more Jim than John) the unofficial star of the show.
...mother Emily (Barbara Bradshaw) was pretty stellar too. A total headtrip of a performance, she managed to convey a confused, yet nurturing matriarch, made more interesting by the occasional slip of a cyanide tongue. We would go so far as to say that Bradshaw's performance reminded us of Meryl Streep at times.
The playwright's dark and intelligent sense of humor, coupled with some standout cast members, make this show about longing and belonging a stage gem suitable for anyone who likes to laugh out loud, while crying a little inside.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Captiva is a brilliantly observed, finely etched portrait of the familial ties that bind in every sense of the word. It’s also one of the finest works of theater we’ve seen in the strongest 18 months of theater this region has produced in recent memory.

Zoetic Stage’s world premiere of Christopher Demos-Brown’s incisive script is elevated further by Stuart Meltzer’s meticulous direction and a superb naturalistic ensemble.
The overlapping dialogue, the simultaneous conversations among different people in the same room is a schematic of the modern family’s difficulty in communicating... The technical skill needed by all parties involved to make the content of these scenes (a) believable and (b) comprehensible amid the cacophony is an underrated but outstanding tour de force.
Demos-Brown’s facility with language – both vocabulary and rhythm — is stunning.
Although every performer is pulling from a deep bag of tricks, the naturalistic acting is amazingly nuanced and skilled. Even newcomer Alvardo is totally believable. It would take another article to adequately praise their ability to master the dialogue and plumb the multiple levels of the script.
But Durkin surpasses virtually anything he has done to date, which is saying something when you consider that includes Thom Pain and Blasted. It’s not that he goes somewhere you haven’t seen him go before. It’s that he does it with a stunning amount of technique carefully smoothed over so it looks completely natural. His ability to express disbelief with a deadpan stare or a raised eyebrow is both deft and hysterical.
Meltzer proves a fine ability to pace and orchestrate the madhouse, allowing for comic timing and dramatic silences. Demos-Brown could not have asked for someone more in tune with the material and able to get that vision on stage.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...Captiva offers further proof of this relatively new playwright’s intelligence, talent and evolving craftsmanship... a treat on multiple levels, from the writing to the performances to the staging and design.
Director Stuart Meltzer’s deft cast makes the most of Demos-Brown’s clever retorts and sudden emotional shifts. Val, Luke and Matt... become combative kids again whenever Bradshaw’s beautifully played Emily delivers a withering expression of her “concern” or Schwartz’s macho-guy Tom does his bull-in-a-china-shop bit in the suddenly claustrophobic living room. The scene in which the combative exes recall the births of their children is one of the best and sweetest in the play, and Bradshaw and Schwartz play it exquisitely.
Among the “kids,” Durkin gets the standout role as the boorish yet likeable Matt. Or maybe Matt is hard to despise, despite his cutting allusions to Luke’s sexual orientation and Val’s lack of success, simply because Durkin makes the guy so interesting. His timing would make a Swiss watchmaker jealous, and he seems to imbue most of his lines with multiple layers of meaning. Watching him work is one of the production’s great pleasures.
...the play (which ran 2 ½ hours on opening night) needs tightening... On the plus side, the playwright gives each character a showcase scene or two, so the audience comes to know and care about all of them.
Just the second production from Zoetic Stage, Captiva underscores the arrival of a company that promises to enrich South Florida’s regional theater scene. With Demos-Brown and his creative collaborators on board, how could it not?
Zoetic Stage presents Captiva at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through November 20, 2011.

Broward Center: Beauty and the Beast (4 reviews)

The NETworks production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast opened at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts on November 15, 2011.
Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Disney's Beauty and The Beast filled the huge stage at the Au-Rene Theatre at the Broward Center with thirty highly talented performers and that was good, but what was even better was the production by some really talented, imaginative people.
A good cast working here, but the star by far was Logan Denninghoff as Gaston, Belle's bad boy would be lover.  Singing, dancing and with a smirk that would shame Oil Can Harry (oh, look him up), Denninghoff lit up the hall, a hard thing to do in that large house.  His constantly abused sidekick, Lefou, was the wonderfully physical Andrew Kruep.  Not that everybody else was chopped liver, far from it, although Emily Behny's vocal edge, she played Belle, could probably cut diamonds.  Dane Agostinis was impressive as the Beast, not so much so as the handsome prince.

No slackers in the rest of the huge cast, the costumes were a delight, the settings inspired, the music most enjoyable and the ladies of the ensemble were, ahem, surprisingly well-endowed.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast stopped in Miami less than a year ago, and now the show is back in South Florida, this time at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. But it isn’t just the venue that has changed. So has the cast, with different actors singing those bouncy, emotion-filled songs...
At the Broward Center, there’s plenty of joy and laughter to go around in director Rob Roth’s staging, which hews to the story’s cartoon roots. Emily Behny is a pretty, plucky, clarion-voiced Belle. Dane Agostinis sings with an ache in his voice as the Beast, particularly on the haunting If I Can’t Love Her, and he conveys the character’s awkward goofiness as the formerly vain prince attempts to woo the lovely Belle.
The actors playing the Beast’s staff — a collection of part-human, part-object servants — don’t have the element of comic surprise that worked so well in the movie and the original Broadway production.... Other than working the visual jokes, the performers don’t find a way of making those roles memorable.

However, as noted, Beauty and the Beast is a show that makes kids happy. So if you have some, by all means go and enjoy.
Lauro Souto Laramee was sent by The Palm Beach Post:
The familiar tale of Beauty and The Beast opened Tuesday night at the Broward Center with a huge production, amazing sets and spectacular costumes.
Emily Behny as Belle is fabulous with an angelic voice and face that rivals the original Belle. Dane Agostinis plays a scary, funny and simply charming Beast. Florida native Logan Denninghoff plays Gaston with confidence galore...
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The facile and sophisticated pose would be to sneer at the sentiment and, yes, manipulative facets of the new tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast gracing the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. But the inescapable fact is this refurbished and re-imagined production has rediscovered some of the loveliness and magic that the road has worn off earlier appearances.
The original creative team has rebuilt enough physical and performance elements that this seems like a fresh show. If you’ve seen it before or even once too often, you may be surprised at how involving it is....Much of this is due to the cast who uniformly execute their roles with a crispness, verve and zest...
Dane Agostinis is an appropriately feral and then hesitant Beast, Michael Haller is a jolly enough Lumiere, Benjamin Lovell is the fussy Cogsworth, Andrew Kruep is a clownish Lefou who does a dozen pratfalls, Julia Louise Hosack is a matronly Mrs. Potts who caresses the title song, and Logan Denninghoff is just delightful as the egomaniacal preening fool Gaston who is deeply and hopelessly in love with himself.
But it’s Emily Behny as Belle who is the winning standout... she radiates sheer loveliness. Pertly attractive and blessed with a liquid voice, Behny not only wins us over instantly, but carries us through the production. And, again, it’s her powers as an actress that deliver the magic in the script and score
It’s been said before, I think in my 1998 review of the first national tour, that the 1991 film was far more enchanting and affecting. As solid as the big production number “Be Our Guest” is here, nothing can match the row upon row of silverware and crockery dancing to a 100-piece orchestra that the animators could come up with.

But this edition is as thoroughly entertaining as you could ask of an 18-year-old warhorse.
The NETworks production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast plays at the Broward Center through November 27, 2011.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Alliance Theatre Lab: Lobby Hero (4 reviews)

The Alliance Theatre Lab opened its production of Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero on November 11, 2011.
When Jeff, a luckless young security guard, is drawn into a local murder investigation, loyalties are strained to the breaking point. As Jeff's tightly wound supervisor is called to bear witness against his troubled brother, and an attractive rookie cop finds she must stand up to her seasoned partner, truth becomes elusive and justice proves costly.
Adalberto J. Acevedo directed a cast that included Mark Della Ventura, Anne Chamberlain, David Sirois, and McLay LaFrance

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Under Adalberto Acevedo’s direction and the work of a strong cast, Lobby Hero becomes a compassionate examination of ordinary flawed human beings struggling to do the right thing as their personal code dictates, sometimes decisively making choices, sometimes stumbling into them – and invariably suffering for those choices no matter how “right” the choices may be.
Oh, and it’s terribly, terribly funny thanks to Lonergan’s creation of his central protagonist, Jeff, a woebegone Everyschlub we can relate to all too well, played to hilariously quirky perfection by Mark Della Ventura in what we’ll argue is the best work we’ve seen him turn in.
Lafrance is serviceable enough as the supervisor trapped between his own inflexible integrity and familial loyalty, although he was still not comfortable with his lines in the second week of production.
The winsome Chamberlain is completely convincing... We hope we’ll see a lot more of her work in coming seasons.
Sirois was simply stunning... The performance never seems like a caricature, and yet, if you’ve seen Sirois in other roles, it will floor you how he has transformed himself into a toxic menace that leaves a slime trail behind him.
All these performances have been guided by Acedvedo with dead solid pacing. He is especially adept at invisibly moving people around the tiny stage to give the illusion of action when, in fact, it’s just people standing around talking to each other.
Following the consecutive successes of Brothers Beckett, Fool For Love and ‘night mother, this production of  Lobby Hero cements Alliance’s reputation as a company to go out of your way to take a chance on seeing.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
It's a fascinatingly cynical piece, Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero, with its moral dilemmas and flawed characters, and the passion poured into this production by The Alliance Theatre Lab makes this play everything it should be.
The terrific cast is led by Mark Della Ventura as the almost professional goofball, hanging by a thread, security guard, Jeff.....  At first glance you think, oh, Della Ventura's been typecast; he can play goofy just standing still.   But there's a lot more hidden behind the sunny smile; he knows he's a loser, he knows he betrays his friends; he knows he's lonely and desperate and he knows his silly jokes are featherweight manhole covers for his inadequacies. 
Sirois's Bill is a quiet thug with deadly authority.  He can't spell nice.
Dawn, Bill's probationary partner in the car and on the horizontal, is Anne Chamberlain and she's every bit of layered as Della Ventura and Sirois.
Director Adalberto J. Acevedo has mounted a faultless Lobby Hero.   The play works as both comedy and drama and Acevedo's actors are more than up to every nuance in the excellent script. 
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Under Adalberto Acevedo’s direction, the Alliance version at the Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes becomes a four-person acting showcase for its young cast, three New World School of the Arts grads and a fourth actor who graduated from Barry University. That the four have stuck around to begin their careers here is a lucky break for South Florida theater fans. Here’s hoping they don’t get the New York itch too soon.
Della Ventura, who has given deft and engaging performances on a variety of South Florida stages, demonstrates the reach and depth of his talent in Lobby Hero. He is utterly convincing as the goofy, funny, warm-hearted guy who has been drifting through life
Lafrance lets us peek under William’s stern façade to see a caring, worried man. Sirois nails Bill, making him a charming slimeball determined to keep Dawn in his corner by seduction, threat or both. Chamberlain impressively travels an emotional path from naïvete to fury, seeking vengeance and asking forgiveness. She’s terrific. And so are the costars who shine so brightly in Lobby Hero.
Camille Lamb reviewed for The Cultist:
In the Alliance's production, directed by Adalberto Acevedo, the script's shades of gray are painted with a capable hand, with some exceptions.
The script (especially Jeff's dialog) is written with an alarming "real people" feel. And Della Ventura nailed that, babbling on in simultaneously stupid and smart over-analyses of the mundane, as though he were coming up with it all on the spot. He was so good as the hopeless, artless funny guy, though, that we found some of the character's more serious scenes hard to accept.
Mcley Lafrance's performance initially interrupted our ability to lock into the action onstage. Though the duo had some good chemistry at the outset, Lafrance tripped on many lines. This problem disappeared completely before the end of the first act, though, and Lafrance's character's moral burden was palpable in his performance in the second act.
Anne Chamberlain was wonderful as Dawn, striking the balance we think the playwright intended for her character: half tough "New Yawk" chick, half wide-eyed, vulnerable young girl.
And David Sirois (an Alliance veteran) came across like a veritable sociopath, delivering completely contradictory lines to different characters (and sometimes to the same character) with consistent believability.
The Alliance Theatre Lab presents Lobby Hero at the Main Street Playhouse through November 27, 2011.   

M Ensemble: Radio Golf (2 reviews)

The M Ensemble opened its production of August Wilson's Radio Golf at the The Light Box's Goldman Warehouse on November 10, 2011.
Radio Golf is a fast-paced, dynamic and wonderfully funny work about the world today and the dreams we have for the future. Set in Pittsburgh in the late 1990's, it's the story of a successful entrepreneur who aspires to become the city's first black mayor. But when the past begins to catch up with him, secrets get revealed that could be his undoing.

The most contemporary of all of August Wilson's work, Radio Golf is the final play in his unprecedented 10-play cycle chronicling African-American life in the 20th century.
John Pryor directed a cast that featured Don Seward,  William Barnes, Carey Hart, Keith Wade, and André L. Gainey,

Michelle F. Solomon reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
There’s something richly poetic about sitting in M Ensemble’s new “home” at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District while watching a play about the maneuverings behind redeveloping a blighted neighborhood.
In the capable hands of artistic director John Pryor, playwright Wilson’s final installment in his monumental 10-play cycle about contemporary African-American life, finds a true voice ― actually a chorus of them ― in the struggles one faces when the past and future collide.
Some people have said the play feels unfinished due to Wilson’s untimely death and that it may have undergone some further revisions had the playwright lived to see it through the process from page to stage. Yet, at M Ensemble, Pryor’s quick pacing and each of the cast’s members ability to inhabit their characters never allows any weakness (if there ever could be one in a Wilson play) to show through.
Still serious in his “Hold Me To It!” slogan, Seward plays Wilks with a tender sincerity although still maintaining his Ivy League rhetoric. Barnes as social-climbing Hicks handles his character with a sophisticated ease. He’s subjected to more than a few verbal punches during the course of events, and a heated exchange with the house painter during a crucial scene over class status is, no doubt, one of the high points of the evening.
Wade and Gainey’s characters (painter Johnson and Ol’ Joe) are familiar Wilson contrarians. Because they are also the comic relief at times, the two actors have the difficult job of making sure their roles don’t drift into caricatures. The seasoned actors both succeed beautifully.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...director John Pryor, who has staged most of the Wilson plays for M Ensemble, offers his insightful take on Radio Golf.
Effectively staged by Pryor, enhanced with mood-underscoring jazz music by the director’s son Shawn, the M Ensemble production in The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse makes more intimate use of the black-box space. The actors don’t always project well enough – some of Wilson’s words get lost – but each performer brings his (or her) character to vivid life. Gainey and Wade get the funniest, juiciest, most Wilsonesque dialogue, and listening to their artfully timed verbal riffs is a joy.
The M Ensemble's production of Radio Golf plays at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through November 27, 2011.

Mosaic Theatre: Lombardi (7 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Lombardi on November 10, 2011.
Don't miss this story of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi and his wife Marie. The play takes place mostly in November of1965, when a young journalist from New York City, Michael McCormick,comes to live with the Lombardi family in order to write a story.
Richard Jay Simon directed a cast that included Ray Abruzzo, Laura Turnbull, Antonio Amadeo, Scott Douglass Wilson, Donte Fitzgerald, and Skye Whitcomb.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Richard Jay Simon directs the material efficiently on a gridiron stage flanked by two revolving stages, designed by technical director Douglas Grinn to become such locales as the Packers’ locker room, the Lombardis’ living room and a Green Bay pool hall/pub. And Simon has imported The Sopranos’ Ray Abruzzo to play Coach Lombardi with a persuasive, albeit two-note -- seething and volcanic -- performance.
...Lombardi is entertaining, but you had better be interested in football, because the play is unable to make the leap to metaphor, to find a larger message in the man’s accomplishments. Simonson knows how to craft a good one-liner, with most of the best handled with assurance by highball-toting Turnbull, but after a while you will probably crave something more profound.
Rod Stafford Hagwood was sent by The Sun-Sentinel:
Lombardi doesn't really delve any deeper into the life of the legendary Green Bay Packers coach than, say, one of those glossy NFL documentaries.   But the production at the Mosaic Theatre in Plantation is sturdily staged and intensely acted with Ray Abruzzo in the title role...
...we get a few half-hearted insights, but nothing that really sticks in Eric Simonson's fresh-from-Broadway play. Instead of lingering on the demons that must have swirled in Lombardi's head, the action whips into flashbacks showing relationships with star players...
Our view is focused by Michael McCormick... Played by Antonio Amadeo, the character serves as a narrator and a patient ear for Lombardi's long-suffering, gimlet-eyed wife, Marie (Laura Turnbull)... Both actors have formidable gifts: Turnbull can pitch her voice just right to cut through all the testosterone, and Amadeo has perfected that ol' reporter trick of looking his subject directly in the eye with no judgment.
But Abruzzo... does give you flashes here and there. It's not in the bombast and bluster, but rather in the moments with no dialogue – just a look.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Abruzzo has a firm grasp on the drive and tunnel-vision determination that were part of the nature of Lombardi. He blusters and bellows mightily. He is so focused on the blustering that he actually trips over a few of his lines. Lombardi's fumbled attempt at retelling a joke actually makes him more likeable.
As Marie, Laura Turnbull is nicely turned out in the fashions of the period, usually sporting a highball as her favorite accessory... Turnbull lets just enough of the love shine through that has surely held them together. She is not truly put upon, but rather is an emotional touch stone to a man driven to obsession by his passion for football.
Antonio Amadeo has a likable charm and youthful energy as Michael... Skye Whitcomb turns in a commanding performance as Jim Taylor. His anger, accent work and physicality make him completely believable. His argument scene with Lombardi late in the show is one of the strongest moments in the show.
...set design by Douglas Grinn maximizes Mosaic's black-box space creatively for this production. One does not have to be a football aficionado to enjoy this look at the private life of famed coach Vince Lombardi, though it may help.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Vince Lombardi:  the name is synonymous with football.  But you don’t have to know anything about the gridiron or touchdowns to enjoy Lombardi, making its southeastern premiere at Mosaic Theatre in Plantation.
Abruzzo’s Lombardi is a compact ball of energy, a pitbull with a heart of gold.  Abruzzo is marvelous, deftly navigating the extremes of Lombardi’s personality, barking orders at his players or his wife one minute, then looking like a contrite child the next when he realizes he’s crossed a line.
Turnbull expertly conveys the world-weariness within Marie, a woman who realized too late that when she married Lombardi, she also married football.
It is in their scenes together that Abruzzo makes Lombardi less an icon and more of a complex man whose pride and desire to be the best drive him to be a part of what he calls a winning tradition. It’s a fascinating portrait of a marriage acted by two consummate pros.
Director Richard Jay Simon keeps the pace brisk and builds suspense throughout, even though the play is more of a character portrait than a plot driven narrative.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Though its subject is an undeniably great football coach, Eric Simonson’s Lombardi isn’t exactly a great play. But even so, you have to admire the commitment and care Mosaic Theatre artistic director Richard Jay Simon has lavished on his newest production.
Abruzzo, who played Little Carmine Lupertazzi on The Sopranos, channels Lombardi’s intensity, his short fuse and his New Jersey accent.
Turnbull is intriguingly crisp and reflective as Marie, a woman who will listen to her sputtering husband for just so long...
Amadeo radiates warmth as a young writer on the cusp of an important career decision. Wilson, Fitzgerald and Whitcomb suggest their characters’ humor, drive and personality quirks but don’t seem credible physically as football pros.
Lombardi is never going to give other, better plays a run for their money. But during this football-intensive time of year, it might be just the thing to get a guy away from the TV and into the theater.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Lombardi comes to us complete with football field, stadium lights, home and visitor seating, overhead TV screens, locker rooms, Green Bay Packer uniforms, coach's office, coach's living rooms, and a tavern complete with pool table, all fitting very well into Mosaic's small black box theatre.  Thank you, Douglas Grinn, technical director and set designer.
Director Richard Simon has made the most of everything his actors and designers have given him.   You don't have to have watched much of America's second favorite spectator sport to instantly identify with Abruzzo's Lombardi; the face, the stature, the clothing, thank you, K. Blair Brown
...Laura Turnbull quietly aces the role of Marie, Lombardi's wife, as she pours down the booze and pours out the problems of living with a man whose priorities peak on Sunday afternoons.
It's a fast, engrossing 90-minutes...  But still there's a feeling that all is not right with Eric Simonson's Lombardi.  There's a thinness to the story, no surprises, a life led and then it's over.   Perhaps we all know too much about the legendary Vince Lombardi.  And all the high production values, good acting and direction can't quite suspend reality.
John Thomason reviewed for The Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
...attention to minutia defines Mosaic's visual approach for Lombardi, Eric Simonson's fresh-off-Broadway drama about a week in the life of legendary Packers Coach Vince Lombardi. The sets at Mosaic are usually ravishing, but this time, designer Douglas Grinn has outdone himself, transforming the smallish space in the American Heritage Center for the Arts into the aforementioned locker room, an office, two semicircles of domesticity, a pub, and, centrally, a gridiron battleground illuminated by stadium floodlights. There's even a JumboTron hanging from the ceiling...
...the result has been counter-intuitive; what at first seemed like the riskiest venture of Mosaic's current season began selling out before the first performance. It certainly helped that Artistic Director Richard Jay Simon snared Ray Abruzzo as the legendary coach...
As Green Bay players Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, and Dave Robinson, the supporting cast of Skye Whitcomb, Scott Douglas Wilson, and Donte Fitzgerald are fine, and Turnbull is a consummate actor incapable of even a mediocre performance. But as the title suggests, this is Abruzzo's show all the way, and the play can't help but sag a little when Lombardi is offstage.
...Abruzzo acts possessed by the very spirit of Lombardi himself, his blood streaming green and yellow...  To watch Abruzzo navigate through this volcano of a man is to look beyond football; we could just as easily be absorbing the mindset of a maniacal general, a paranoid politician, or a tyrannical film director. In both its casting and staging — Lombardi is often positioned on elevated platforms, to give the diminutive coach authority over his tall players — the show communicates the intimidating reality of living under a dictator.
Lombardi plays at Mosaic Theatre through December 4, 2011.

Palm Beach DramaWorks: All My Sons (4 reviews)

Palm Beach DramaWorks opened its production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons on November 11, 2012, kicking off a new era of live theatre in its newly renovated home, the former Florida Theater on Clematis Street.
This morality play about the cost of lying and the price of truth-telling examines a troubled family and a father who placed duty to his family above the lives of others, and now must face the consequences.
J. Barry Lewis directed a cast that included Jim Ballard, Dave Hyland, Kersti Bryan, Kenneth Kay, Cliff Burgess, Margery Lowe, Kaden Cohen, Leandre Thivierge, Elizabeth Dimon, Kenneth Tigar, and Nanique Gheridian

Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Long on the West Palm Beach company’s to-do list, it deferred producing All My Sons until moving into its new home, the far roomier, yet still intimate performance space created from the former Cuillo Centre for the Arts. There it benefits from a stunning two-story set by resident designer Michael Amico, a richly detailed, lived-in Ohio home, porch and backyard of the Keller family.

The set is a marvel, but with the cast that director J. Barry Lewis has assembled and guided through Miller’s many figurative land mines, this All My Sons would be a shattering dramatic experience if it were played on a bare stage.
...the play’s flaws do not prevent the diminutive Tigar from giving a towering performance that demands to be seen.

Genial and folksy with his neighbors early on, Tigar becomes gradually hemmed in by Joe’s past, and he lashes out with the bellowing bluster of a broken man. He is the reason this All My Sons is a must-see experience, but the entire ensemble as Dramaworks contributes to the forceful production.
Jim Ballard... impresses as Joe’s surviving son Chris, who has invited home his brother’s former girl friend, Ann (Kersti Bryan), intending to propose to her... For as long as possible, Chris tries to keep his marriage plans from his mother, Kate (alternately sweet and steely Elizabeth Dimon)...
The points Miller loses for neatness, he more than makes up in dramatic ferocity. In this, he has a skillful accomplice in director Lewis, who understands the value of the initial languid pace and when to open up the throttle for maximum impact...  Without negating any of its worthy past work, this feels like a brawny new company, flexing its muscles, inviting the community into its new playhouse for many new dramatic adventures to come.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for The Palm Beach Daily News:
Palm Beach Dramaworks’ production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons continues its track record of powerful productions of under-performed plays from the American theater canon.
Elizabeth Dimon delivers an electrifying performance as Joe’s formidable wife, Kate,
Kenneth Tigar’s patriarchal Joe loses confidence shred by shred, until his final whispered epiphany brings home Miller’s message as forcefully as a shout.

Jim Ballard as Chris, the reluctant heir to his father’s business and a disillusioned war vet, grows in power and conviction to a father-son confrontation that’s as explosive a moment as any seen on the Dramaworks stage.

The remainder of the 10-member cast turn in convincing performances under the guidance of resident director J. Barry Lewis.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Should you doubt the enduring power of the play, do make it a point to see Palm Beach Dramaworks’ superb new production of All My Sons. No matter where you live in South Florida, this one is so worth the drive.
While retaining intimacy and expanding its seating capacity, Dramaworks has gained the ability to do more with design — and what the team pulls off for All My Sons is stunning.
Under J. Barry Lewis’ astute, graceful direction, the cast (which also includes Kenneth Kay and Nanique Gheridian as the Kellers’ neighbors on one side, Dave Hyland and Margery Lowe as the neighbors on the other, plus Kaden Cohen and Leandre Thivierge alternating in the tiny role of a neighborhood kid) crafts a collection of stirring, deep performances. Tigar roars as Joe, a little man with a big secret. Dimon’s breakdown when she learns the truth about her beloved lost son is monumentally moving. Ballard and Bryan are beguiling as a couple trying to love in a world that would deny them. Burgess rides a roller coaster of emotions, from fury to nostalgic relief.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...even though the number of seats has nearly tripled, and the size of the stage has increased significantly, the company has managed to retain the intimacy of the Banyan Street space.
All My Sons is a play that would have been impossible to produce in the old Palm Beach Dramaworks space. Not only is the cast of ten and the set requirements more that the old space could handle, the story, emotions and impact of the play are too big for the company’s former tiny venue.  Here in the new Don & Ann Brown Theatre, All My Sons has room to breathe, yet the emotional impact resonates even when watching the drama unfold from the last row.
The entire cast is marvelous, and without a single misstep. There’s an abundance in All My Sons that was characteristic in the heyday of theatre but is rarely seen today.  Several of the characters in All My Sons are minor and exist to create a sense of the community in which the Kellers exist, and to add one piece of vital information. These days, playwrights wouldn’t even think to write so many characters, and if they dared, the costs of producing such a play would limit its life.
Tigar, a veteran TV and movie actor, delivers an astounding performance as Joe Keller, the flawed patriarch who refuses to take responsibility for his actions... Tigar performs this devolution masterfully with an emotional and physical transformation he creates through his body language, posture and his expression.
Tigar is well-paired with Elizabeth Dimon... Dimon portrays Kate with resolute decisiveness... But Dimon also finds the heartbreak in the character, as a mother both mourning the loss of her son while believing he’s still alive. It’s a beautiful, nuanced performance.
Ballard plays Chris Keller as a man on the brink of life, torn between staying with what he knows and his desire to start fresh. His scenes with Tigar, when the son confronts his father with the older man’s failures, will push the audience to the edge of their seats.
Bryan... mines the poignancy and complexity in Ann’s situation, and gives a beautifully crafted performance.
Cliff Burgess (is) riveting...
Amico was a master at creating awe-inducing sets in the old space, and he has outdone himself... his design — a two story house with a back porch, garage, and backyard — is breathtaking. The set is enhanced by John D. Hall’s evocative lighting design... The sound, by Rich Szczublewski, is clear and rich, and sounds natural, not overly amplified.
...judging by this production of All My Sons, the new space has allowed Palm Beach Dramaworks to amp up the quality work they’ve always done, resulting in a production that should keep the house full every performance, and still leave some theatergoers wishing they had bought tickets earlier.

All My Sons plays at Palm Beach DramaWorks through December 11, 2011.

Mondays are Dark

It's not quite dark on The Scene today - there's a play reading at Rising Action Theatre at 7:30 pm tonight. It's broken up my poker game this week, so everyone should go see what Michael Leeds has wrought with his play Who Killed Joan Crawford?  It'll be entertaining, if only to see what Ken Clement will find in it.

Awards...
Last week, the Silver Palm Awards were announced.  This week, the Remy Awards were announced, and one goes to the Theatre Scene, or to me, anyway.  The other to the beloved and lovely Meredith Lasher.  From Florida Theater On Stage:
The South Florida Theatre League has revealed who will receive its coveted Remy Awards next month: Christopher Jahn and Meredith Lasher.

The award recognizes Jahn’s continuing work compiling, evaluating and fighting for arts coverage on the South Florida Theatre Scene blog.
I can think of at least one New Times writer who will be less than enthused.

The same article has a reminder about the Carbonell Awards:

The Carbonell Awards program is more than just a way to recognize excellence in local theater; revenue from the annual awards ceremony funds three scholarships for high school students from the tri-county area who plan to study theater or journalism in a university setting.
...and More Awards
BroadwayWorld apparently has an awards thingy, too.  But this one's more of a popularity contest, like the New Times awards.  Here's the link to the Florida Awards.  Vote early, vote often, and vote South Florida.  And get your friends to vote. Or 'borrow' your co-workers' email addresses to vote.

And while you're at it, Wayne LeGette has been nominated for L.A.'s Best Featured Actor in a Musical (touring). Abuse the system, and show those L.A. pukes that South Florida can win any election for anybody anywhere.  Democracy Inaction!  Or something.

...and Speaking of Carbonell...
As we noted yesterday, beloved sculptor Manuel Carbonell, Cuba's last master sculptor and the man for whom the Carbonell Awards were named, has passed.  The Drama Queen offers a fine obituary, which she expanded for the general readership of The Miami Herald.  From the latter:

Though he was steeped in the worlds of sculpture and visual arts, the elegant Carbonell got involved with South Florida’s theater community in 1975 at the behest of his friend, the late Miami News theater critic and arts writer Bill Von Maurer. The South Florida Critics’ Circle had begun honoring the best work in theater from each season, and Von Maurer asked Carbonell if he would consider designing an award statue. Carbonell took the idea, shaped the circle into a graceful egg, and the awards were rechristened the Carbonells in his honor.
Michael McKeever, a playwright and actor who is also a visual artist, has won three best new work Carbonells, for The Garden of Hannah List in 1998, Running with Scissors in 2004 (both at Florida Stage) and Melt at New Theatre in 2008. Though the award sculptures were replaced by plaques in 2008, McKeever says he and everyone else who owns a bronze Carbonell Award treasures having their work honored with a piece of art.
“The beauty of the award was the specific and unique shape, design and weight of the trophy,” he says. “Because it was artwork, it made the award more special. The Carbonell logo even now is based on that sculpture.”
Life in a Cabaret
If you missed Avery Sommers wowing the crowd in the Actors' Playhouse production of Hairspray, BroadwayWorld reports that you can catch her cabaret act at The Colony Hotel in toney Palm Beach.

Got a Website?
Butts in Seats says there are some new standards out there that you should look at.

Embrace the Internet
Meanwhile, The Artful Manager speculates about taking advantage of the new mobile phone technology - IN YOUR THEATER.
Every poster in the lobby could have a bar code that triggers promotional content, videos, and program notes (for that matter, every printed ticket could too). Printed programs could offer the same access to purchase tickets to future events, or add-ons to the current event (VIP meet-the-artist events after the show, for example). A mobile app could start and finish the purchase, and the mobile screen could serve as the ticket to be scanned. And on and on.
On the Horizon
BroadwayWorld on Disney's Beauty and the Beast, opening Tuesday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
The Sun-Sentinel on Disney's Beauty and the Beast; includes "four fun facts."

The Examiner on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, opening at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in a couple of weeks.  Something to consider; Actors' Playhouse opens its production of Joseph later this year; check them both out, to gain a fuller understanding of how live theatre is different from movies or TV.  And you can do the same thing with RED, playing now at GableStage, and Jupiter's production later this season.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Boca Raton Theatre Guild: The Tale of the Allergist's Wife (3 reviews)

The Boca Raton Theatre Guild opened its production of Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife at the Willow Theatre on November 5th, 2011.
Marjorie Taub: shopaholic, avid reader, loved by her devoted husband...but her beloved psychiatrist has just died, her mother obsesses about her gastric tract and her husband is now retired and devoted to sinus infections for the homeless.

After a breakdown in the Disney store...what is Marjorie to do?

Enter her friend from the past, Lee Greene...who has a few secrets of her own!
Genie Croft Directed a cast that included Patti Gardner, Barbara Sloan, Michael Beecher, Yusuf Rathore, and Iris Acker.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Still trying to establish its status as a professional theater company, Boca Raton Stage Guild makes a major move in that direction with the selection of Charles Busch’s boulevard comedy, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, and the casting of two South Florida veteran actresses, Patti Gardner and Barbara Sloan, in the leading roles.
While the play has plenty of humor, director Genie Croft pushes it unnecessarily into the realm of sitcom. Sure, Marjorie’s gastrointestinally obsessed mom (Iris Acker) is a string of punch lines, but the rest of cast seems to have been encouraged to pitch their performances far broader than desirable.

Nevertheless, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife is a cut above the usual community theater fare, and so is the Stage Guild’s production.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The mid-life crisis of an upper West Side dilettante is brought to life in Charles Busch’s comic hit The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, now receiving a handsome production by the Boca Raton Theatre Guild.
Patti Gardner is believable as Marjorie, mining the melodrama in mid-life crisis. Gardner is the perfect counterpoint to Barbara Sloan’s vivacious Lee, who, in Sloan’s hands, could believably seduce a celibate and sell ham to a Hassidic.
Iris Acker excels at this with razor sharp comic timing and put-upon old lady feistiness.  Michael Beecher nails the long-suffering uber-understanding routine but fails to find the humor in Ira’s self-grandiose lines about serving the poor through his allergy clinic.
While the first act drags with exposition, director Genie Croft steps up the pace in the second act, and the show soars when Gardner, Beecher, Sloan and Acker are on stage together.  Their interplay is worth the price of admission and make this production one to see.
Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed wrote for theSun-Sentinel:
As good as much of "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" is — and there is an awful lot to fall in "like" with here in the Boca Raton Theatre Guild production — the play just can't wrench itself away from a strong sitcom feel.
It comes in crystal clear when the comedy's center, Marjorie Taub (played by Patti Gardner, who could unwrap it a bit more)...
Wait; did he just suggest that Ms. Gardner should strip?
It isn't the actors' fault; all of them could chisel out some more laughs from the shale rock of Charles Busch's script, which hands them dialogue that often sounds like a series of one-liners. But if they went for the bigger yucks — mugging and camping it up like some of Busch's earlier scripts — then director Genie Croft would have to shed the satire-light feel and dive head first into the sitcom seas. It would be a trap, causing the ephemeral ending to feel even more like a commercial break.
The Boca Raton Theatre Guild production of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife plays at the Willow Theater through November 20, 2011.

Stage Door Theatre: Guys and Dolls (4 reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Guys and Dolls and October 28, 2011.
Nathan Detroit, the organizer of the oldest permanent floating crap game, bets Sky Masterson that he can't make the next girl he sees fall in love with him. Featuring “Guys and Dolls”, “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”, and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat”, this beloved musical is also a great American classic and multiple Tony-Award Winner!

Dan Kelly directed a cast that included Adam Bashian, Justin Lore, Colleen Amaya, Phil Gosselin, Kevin Reilly, and Jill Taylor Anthony.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Unfortunately, with a couple of exceptions, this cast just can't handle Runyon.  Guys and Dolls is based on the writings of Damon Runyon, chronicler of 1930s and 40s Broadway and its cast of gangsters, hustlers, gamblers and their molls.   His characters spoke in a language of their own, a mix of the slang and the formal, with never a contraction to be heard.   This dialogue is the heart of Guys and Dolls and if it's not delivered convincingly the show becomes a concert.  In this case the concert is not particularly well performed.
Jill Taylor Anthony as Miss Adelaide and Adam Bashian as Sky Masterson stand out from a so so crowd on the stage.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Among the inexplicable mysteries of life are how does a hummingbird fly, how can the Kardashians have a television show, and how can Broward Stage Door keep producing engaging shows like The Drowsy Chaperone and The Light in the Piazza and then revert to such misfires as Mame and, now, Guys and Dolls.
The most glaring problem is that only one performer – Jill Taylor Anthony as the eternally left-at-the-altar Adelaide – has even a clue to classic comic timing, despite being presented with some of funniest lines ever written for the stage. Joke after joke, gag after gag fall flatter than the ratings for the new Charlie’s Angels TV reboot.
Several actors including Bashian and Amaya have solid voices, but only Anthony as the nightclub headliner who sounds like an unmuted trumpet is acting convincingly while she sings.
And yet, the base material is so strong that even this crew occasionally reaches the actual level of adequate entertainment. The roof-raising numbers Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat, the title number and the finale had all the qualities the rest of the show lacked.
J.W. Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
With matinee-idol good looks and a silky baritone voice, Adam Bashian is a real star in his role as Sky Masterson. He is backed up by strong performances by Phil Gosselin and Justin Lore as wily gamblers Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Nathan Detroit, and Kevin Reilly as tireless copper Lt. Brannigan, decked out in a Dick Tracy-yellow overcoat. Jill Taylor Anthony nails Detroit’s girlfriend, naïve nightclub singer Miss Adelaide. Colleen Amaya, as a Sarah, delivers beautiful, crystal clear vocals throughout the show, but there just isn’t much romantic chemistry with Bashian’s Sky.
Set designer Sean McClelland contributes a flexible set design... Despite the clever use of the turntable, the set... has an amateurish, two-dimensional look that just doesn’t stand up to the vibrant Technicolor costumes from Costume World. And, as often happens at Stage Door, the cast finds itself awkwardly maneuvering in very tight quarters thanks to the expansive set. Chrissi Ardito’s daring choreography notably suffers as a result.
When Broward Stage Door takes a risk and rolls the dice—as it has done in the past with A Little Night Music, The Light in the Piazza and to a lesser degree with The Drowsy Chaperone and Mack and Mabel—the result is a big, big winner.  Guys and Dolls was a safer bet, but the company still beats the odds with an entertaining show that will continue to pack the house.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for the Sun-Sentinel;
The cast are all in top-notch voice, singing out with the beepy pulse of a telegraph machine and even managing to find some swing in Frank Loesser's score, here performed over recorded music. And the brassy costumes and technicolor sets are all wiseguy-whimsical and period-perfect.
And yet, even having acknowledged that, this version of the 1950s Broadway hit is heavy on the visual, but light on the charm... And some of the show's snap is smothered by a few flat stretches in the middle and clunky choreography, notably the "Havana" number in the first act.
...it's not edginess or even revelation we're expecting. But if you're going to go to Runyanland, you somehow want the trip to be more fun than we're having here.

Guys and Dolls plays at the Stage Door Theatre through December 4, 2011.

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: The 39 Steps (2 reviews)

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre opened its production of The 39 Steps on November 1, 2011.
Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel and you have Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, Broadway’s most intriguing, most thrilling, most riotous comedy smash! The mind-blowing cast plays over 150 characters in this fast-paced tale of an ordinary man on an extraordinarily entertaining adventure. Using ingenious theatrical invention, this production is an engaging, fast-paced whodunit that celebrates the magic of theater.
Peter Amster directed a cast that featured Christian Pedersen, Beth Hylton, Andrew Sellon, and Joe Foust.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
The Maltz enlisted the aid of director Peter Amster, whose productions of the show have already played at three venues in the Northeast and Midwest. Still, this is treacherously thin material and sustaining the mirth for two hours -- including a comic inertia-killing intermission -- can prove very difficult.

That is the case at the Maltz, where the hilarity level seems about a quart low, despite four agile, energetic performers. Particularly adept at the requisite clowning are Andrew Sellon and Joe Foust, who handle most of the eye-blink character changes, most notably in a clever shtick where they keep transforming themselves with just the swap of head gear.
The plot is intentionally complex and some of the problem seems to be that director Amster is trying for narrative clarity at the expense of sheer speed. While that is usually a smart trade-off, it is a laugh-killer here.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Leading man Christian Pedersen is enjoyable as Richard Hannay, and does a good job with pacing. Beth Hylton as the assorted women in his life needs to more consistently make some of her character choices bigger and more colorful. She is at her best in those moments when she is larger than life. The comedy that carries this show belongs to Joe Foust as Clown 2 and Andrew Sellon as Clown 1. Watching them is like watching exercises right out of the TV show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?." Scenes like the train ride scene, where they play multiple characters, show real comedic concentration, and personify the sheer fun and understated genius of this production.
Lovers of film noir and Hitchcock will get a kick out of The 39 Steps. This production is entertaining as both a comedic theatre piece and an actor's exercise.
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre production of The 39 Steps plays through November 13, 2011.