Wednesday, February 29, 2012

AAPACT: Fathers and Others Strangers (reviews)

The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre opened its production of Jeffrey Stetson's Fathers and Other Strangers on February 24, 2012.

Teddy Harrell, Jr. directed a cast that included Rene' Granado, Finley Polynice, Clinton Archambault, Glen Lawrence, Deidre' Washington, Jon Kelly and Curtis Holland

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The newest effort from Miami’s African American Performing Arts Community Theatre (AAPACT), the drama about a black Chicago-based psychiatrist examines relationships between men and their fathers, men and father figures, or men and their families. Racism from both black and white characters is also on the table. Ditto the use of violence vs. reason.
Staged by APPACT founder Teddy Harrell Jr. on Dudley Pinder’s dual-office set, Fathers and Other Strangers features solid performances, though because of Paul’s tightly controlled emotions, Polynice barely gets to demonstrate the flair and charisma he has brought to other roles. The issues Stetson raises are certainly stubborn and resonant, but the way he handles them doesn’t make for compelling drama.
Fathers and Other Strangers plays at the African American Performing Arts Community Theatre through March 18, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mondays are Dark

This season is flying by; it's almost March!  Do you have your tickets to the Carbonell Awards yet?  They're only a month away!

It was a busy weekend of theater; we missed the One Minute Play Festival because we had tickets to RED at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre; a production marred only by the whining 90-something crone who decided that the show was "awful" and "disgusting," and growled about it once every ten minutes or so.  Too bad the play didn't have an intermission; it would have allowed the old biddy to leave.

Anyway, hope everyone else had a better audience experience.  Here's what we found interesting in this week's news;

Arts to Make a Comeback
Bob Norman's Blog reports that Broward Superintendent of Schools Robert Runcie is streamlining the transportation department, and he's putting the savings to good use:
The savings will come to more than $15 million a year, he said. And Runcie is promising to use that money to bring back all of the "specials" teachers -- who teach art, music, physical education, and media -- who have been laid off due to budget cuts in recent years
Despite troubles, Caldwell still WORKING
BroadwayWorld talks with Caldwell Theatre's artistic director about their production of Working, which started previews on Sunday.
“What drew me to the piece was the extent to which the material really celebrates the American worker,” said Clive Cholerton, Artistic Director of Caldwell Theatre Company and director for the show. “In this period of high unemployment, it is so refreshing to hear this music which is so emotionally engaging and I think even further hints at the rebirth that we seem to be on the verge of.”
James Taylor wrote some of the songs, and performed in a 1982 production of the show taped for American Playhouse on PBS.

Now you know what happened to Taylor's acting career. Actually, the entire production was lackluster and dull; even Rita Moreno barely managed to squeak out the show-stopping number It's an Art.  I think they were trying to avoid having it appear to be a musical.  Seriously.

But there are great songs in this show, and it's based on the Studs Terkel book of the same name.  In addition to Schwartz and Taylor, there are songs by Mary Rodgers (Once Upon A Matress), Craig Carnelia (Sweet Smell of Success), Micki Grant (Your Arm's Too Short To Box with God), and a recent revision added numbers by Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights).  It's in previews right now at the Caldwell Theatre.

Fort Lauderdale gets HIGH
We've mentioned that Kathleen Turner is coming to town, now we have not one but three stories about the show.  Florida Theater On Stage talks with the playwright, and reprints an essay he wrote.  The Sun-Sentinel also has an interview, as does South Florida Gay News.

Miami Made
TheatreMania and BroadwayWorld brings us up to speed on the Arsht Center's free Miami Made Festival 2012; as the name implies, it features local artists performing works by local artists.  From the latter:
Highlights of the festival include: the Miami premiere of Rosie Herrera’s critically acclaimed Dining Alone, commissioned by the Arsht Center; the world premiere of SHIMMER, a vibrant, experimental new work from the TM Sisters; the world premiere of BEER SAMPLERS, an immersive art-imitating-nightlife experience created by THE PROJECT [THEATRE] and commissioned by the Arsht Center; a sneak peek of PAUL TEI’s latest work-in-progress RPM, presented in collaboration with Mad Cat Theatre Company; and Mark Della Ventura’s one-man-show SMALL MEMBERSHIP.
Speaking of Mark Della Ventura
Miami Artzine gives us an in depth look at the local actor/playwright;
Ah, Mark Della Ventura's work.  Well, first off, playing March 3 and 4 he'll be performing a 30 minute version of Small Membership as part of Miami Made Festival 2012 at the Arsht Center.  And then he'll be taking the full length show to the Alliance Theatre Lab in Miami Lakes, where it will run from June 1 through June 24.   Small Membership deals, amongst other things, with just what you think it might, and, Mark points out, it's more theatrical than real life.  And it does include a broken heart.
Speaking of 'Local Boy Does Good'
The Palm Beach Post reports that when Billy Elliot opens at the Broward Center this week, Miami native Mitch Poulos will be in the company.
In his role as Big Davey, Poulos’ favorite part of the show is during a scene where he lends Billy much needed support. Poulos’ character helps break up a fight, and the townspeople are brought together with him leading them with the song “He Could Go and He Could Shine”.
Blast from the Past - again.
The Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers (1945) was discovered by the LA Stage Times Blog back in 2009, but South Florida Theater News just discovered it.  It's worth the read, if you missed its earlier go-round.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stage Door: My Fair Lady (2 reviews)

Stage Door Theatre opened its production of My Fair Lady at its Broward location on February 17, 2012.
This show is the standard by which all others are measured. With “Wouldn't It Be Loverly” “With a Little Bit of Luck” “The Rain in Spain” “I Could Have Danced All Night” “On the Street Where You Live” “Get Me to the Church on Time” and “I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face” it's no wonder everyone-not just Henry Higgins-falls in love with Eliza Doolittle.
Michael Leeds directed a cast that included Matthew William Chizever, Diana Rose, Regan Featherstone, Michael Douglass, and Bob Levitt.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...this edition of My Fair Lady is a disappointing muddle other than a few adequate performances under the direction of the usually reliable Michael Leeds.

The first two thirds of this evening is mostly a listless, lackluster effort. Surprisingly, the quality improves so significantly in the final third of the show that you wonder if they switched out the casts. But by that time, it’s too late. Even at its best moments, and it has some, there’s no magic, no charm.
Stage Door’s strongest assets, thankfully, are Matthew William Chizever as the misanthropic speech pathologist Henry Higgins and Diana Rose Becker as the flower girl from streets who he transforms into a “lie-dee” while she gets under his skin.
Chizever wisely makes no attempt to channel any of his predecessors including the indelible icon Rex Harrison. Instead, he delivers his own perfectly valid characterization...  He labors mightily to inject expressiveness in his songs, a task made three times more difficult by the digital music that barrels along as if it’s late to a party.
Becker, a willowy brunette with a lovely soprano that does justice to Loewe’s melodies, is just fair, no pun intended, when acting the intimidated Eliza in the first act. She really only comes into her own as an actress once she has been transformed into a swan and begins to push back.
A nod goes to Regan Featherstone as the lovesick Freddy Eynsford-Hill who delivers a respectable  “On the Street Where you Live.” And credit Miki Edelman for giving Mrs. Higgins the dry droll topspin missing from everyone else in the cast.
While we strongly favor live bands... we’ve mentioned here that if you’re going to do a major musical with a lush score like this one, the digitized score at least gives you a chance at reproducing the full orchestral sound that older audiences associate with warhorse titles... But the score here and in at least one other recent show has been provided by a company that rents them out. They are awful. They sound tinny and, worst of all, they race along at such an unnatural clip that singers can do little but sprint along.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
My Fair Lady... remains as delightful a piece of musical theater as the day the team debuted it in 1956. But that doesn’t mean My Fair Lady is foolproof or easy to pull off, truths that the Stage Door production illustrates.
Michael Leeds... has a 20-member company for My Fair Lady. But just two of the performers would shine in nearly any production of the musical, though fortunately for Leeds (and the audience), those two are Matthew William Chizever as... Henry Higgins... and Diana Rose Becker as... Eliza Doolittle...
Chizever and Becker have obvious onstage chemistry, properly combative for much of the show but also hinting at a growing bond that Higgins doesn’t quite grasp, to Eliza’s consternation. Shaw always loathed the idea of a happy ending for his version of the Pygmalion-Galatea story. But the full-of-possibility final image, with Chizever’s grinning Higgins and Becker’s pretty-in-pink Eliza, is one of the loveliest and most satisfying moments in a B-grade production that doesn’t have an abundance of them.
Less demanding My Fair Lady fans may be perfectly happy with what Leeds and company have achieved, particularly given the “loverly” performances by Chizever and Becker. But what should have been a season highlight just isn’t.
My Fair Lady plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through March 25, 2012.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Scene for February 24, 2012

It's a great weekend to take your kids to see a show, and your last chance to see RED at the Jupiter Theater. 

And don't forget the One Minute Play Festival at Miami's Deering Estate on Sunday.

Here's what's playing around South Florida this weekend...


Fathers and Other Strangers opens at the African American Performing Arts Community Theatre.

you still haven't missed...

Palm Beach DramaWorks has extended its run of The Pitmen Painters through March 11, 2012.

Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays at the Stage Door Theatre's Coral Springs location through March 4.

Anagram Entertainment's production of Top Gun! The Musical plays at Empire Stage through March 4, 2012.

My Fair Lady also plays at the Stage Door, through March 25.

If you find yourself in Key West, God Of Carnage is playing at the Red Barn Theatre.

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

last chance to see...

RED winds up its too brief run at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre this Sunday February 26, 2012.

The Dreyfoos School of the Arts production of Metamorphoses closes February 26.

coming and going...

Mandy Patinkin: Let Go is the Broadway star's new solo show.  Be among the first to see it at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, through Sunday.

The Original Florida Follies
plays at the Miramar Cultural Center this Sunday, February 26.

for kids...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
returns to The Playground Theatre through March 11, 2012.

Actors' Playhouse offers Alexander, Who's Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move! through March 9, 2012.

Snow White: An Enchanting Musical
plays at Showtime Dance and Performing Arts Theatre through March 10.

Jack and the Beanstalk plays for two shows only  this Saturday at the Miniaci Performing Arts Center on the campus of Nova Southeastern University. It's part of their Family Fun Series.

Are you My Mother? plays two shows this Sunday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as part of their Family Fun Series.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mondays are Dark

It's a good week for theatre stories.

Got A Minute?
Sunday is the One Minute Play Festival at Miami's Deering Estate.  South Florida Theatre League Executive Director and Playwrite Andie Arthur tells us about it.

"It Ain't Easy, This Business We Call 'Show'..."
The LA Times ponders the reasons that many regional theaters are less concerned with "show" and focusing more on "business."
The problem in a nutshell is this: Established theaters have by and large grown larger, public funding has become a monumental challenge and artistic directors have moved in an increasingly commercial direction, adopting a bottom-line mentality that has put publicity and profitability over bold and substantive choices.
A little while back, Actors' Playhouse staged the musical Floyd Collins.  It was an artistic masterpiece and a critical smash. But hardly anyone came to see it, and of those that did, many walked out at intermission.  One of the theater's board members told artistic director David Arisco "Congratulation on all those great reviews!  You're fired."

Fortunately, the board member was kidding.  Mostly.  But it illustrates the problem facing artistic directors everywhere; artistic excellence is no guarantee of ticket sales.

Speaking of Artistic Excellence And Low Sales
South Florida's oldest regional theater, the 37-years-old Caldwell Theatre Company, is struggling under massive debt.  The Sun-Sentinel reports that loans made by patrons have gone unpaid, while Florida Theater On Stage reports that the theatre is filing Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to fend off a foreclosure action. But they're not closing anytime soon; from the latter article:
“This is just a reorganization; it is the same chapter (of the bankruptcy code) that American Airlines is currently using. Just like a passenger on American Airlines, you wouldn’t recognize that anything is different. We anticipate the same service to our subscribers so they will not know anything has changed,”
- Caldwell attorney Bradley Shraiberg
The bank is also quoted, saying they don't wish to see the theater shut down.

Speaking of Not Shutting Down
BroadwayWorld tells us about Caldwell's next show, Working, Stephen Schwartz's musical adaptation of the Studs Terkel novel of the same name.  It's still scheduled to open February 26, 2012.  The show includes songs by Schwartz, James Taylor (yes, that James Taylor), and Lin-Manuel-Miranda (In The Heights).

At The Other End of the County
The Maltz Jupiter Theater hits 7,000 subscribers and launches an endowment campaign, according to the Palm Beach ArtsPaper.

Speaking of Arts Support
The Sun-Sentinel reports that Broward County leads in State of the Arts license plates; 1 out of every 1,000 cars sports one.  In South Florida in general, the plate is favored over  other specialty tags.

Work in Progress.
The Miami Herald reports that Broadway star Mandy Pantinkin (Evita, Sunday In The Park With George) will be trying out a new show at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center this weekend.
Patinkin spokesperson Catherine Major explains in an email: “The engagement at Aventura ... will be his first presentation of the show to a live audience, and it will evolve from that point forward. Given that the show is currently not fully realized, reviews by theater critics would be premature.”
So I guess if you want to know if it's any good, you'll just have to go and see it yourself.  But given his track record, it's a safe investment.

Speaking of New Shows
The Palm Beach Post visits Cirque Dreams' production facility to see how Pop Goes The Rock is coming together.  It opens at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino on March 29.
Assistant costume designer Danielle Tabino spent 5 hours hand sewing rhinestones to the flame costume. “I love rhinestone,” Tabino said. “They sparkle so much. When I see it on stage and the performer is twirling in it, the lights hit it and it sparkles even more. It a good feeling to know I made it”.
I'm reminded of a scene from The Three Amigos:

Brushing Up for the Role
The Shiny Sheet reports that cast members of The Pitmen Painters, which just opened at Palm Beach DramaWorks, took lessons at The Armory Art Center to prepare for the show.

High Time reminds us that Kathleen Turner will make her Fort Lauderdale debut with High, opening February 29 at the Parker Playhouse.  Previous South Florida engagements brought her to The Coconut Grove Playhouse and The Royal Poinciana Playhouse.  And of course, she filmed Body Heat in Lake Worth a little while back.

The Examiner reports that Alliance Theatre Lab will be presenting an evening of short play readings at GableStage as a fund raiser.  The plays are written by company members David Michael Sirois and Mark Della Ventura.  Sirois is up for a Carbonell Award this April for his critically acclaimed Brothers Beckett.

The Sun-Sentinel reports that two area churches will be hosting a production of T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral.
Written in 1935, "Murder in the Cathedral" relates the true story of Thomas Becket, chancellor of England under King Henry II. The king had Becket appointed archbishop of Canterbury, hoping to bring the church in England under his control. Once he donned the archbishop's miter, however, Becket opposed his former friend. After eight years of conflict, four of Henry's knights took it on themselves to kill Thomas, right in the church.
If the story sounds familiar, that's because back in 1964, Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton starred in a film about the story, Beckett.  It was based on the Jean Anouilh play of the same title.

Open For Business
Playbill reports that The Plaza Theater is open.  It kicked off this past weekend with Donna McKechnie's one-woman show, My Musical Comedy Life.  The Plaza is operating out of the space Florida Stage built at 262 South Ocean Boulevard in Manalapan.

Peanuts Redux
BroadwayWorld tells us about Outré Theatre Company's reading of Dog Sees God, being staged at GableStage on March 19th.

Mosaic's Mo' Better Contest
Mosaic Theatre reports that it's added prizes and celebrity judges to its Stop! The Violence video contest.

Young at Heart
South Florida Gay News visits with some of the folks performing in this year's Florida Follies production, which opens this coming Sunday.
...of course, every Follies production is not complete without the showgirl parade.

“The youngest is 63 and the oldest is 88 and, let me tell you, she has a figure that is better than some of the younger girls,” Gorab says.
The Florida Follies tours its production of Dancing Down Memory Lane around South Florida February 26 - March 25.

Speak the Speech... Trippingly on the Tongue
Palm Beach ArtsPaper audits a workshop sponsored by the Society of the Four Arts, and taught by theatre veteran Barrie Ingham.
For Ingham, a veteran stage and television actor and Royal Shakespeare Company honorary associate, understanding great texts means hearing them spoken aloud — either by reading it out loud yourself or hearing someone else do so.
Word.  By the way, the workshop is not intended for actors, but for anyone who wants a fuller appreciation of Shakespeare.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Palm Beach DramaWorks: The Pitmen Painters (5 Reviews)

Palm Beach DramaWorks opened its production of Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters on February 17, 2012.  And they've already extended its run through March 11!
From the writer of Billy Elliot comes the triumphant true story of a group of British miners who discover a new way to express themselves and unexpectedly become art-world sensations!
J. Barry Lewis directed a cast that included Kim Cozort, Dennis Creaghan, Rob Donohoe, Joby Earle, Betsy Graver, Colin McPhillamy, Declan Mooney, and John Leonard Thompson.

John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
John Leonard Thompson, as the instructor Robert Lyon, does a wonderful job showing his character quickly shift from tolerance of the group of men to appreciation... Kim Cozort as the wealthy supporter of the arts, Helen Sutherland, captures the right air and elegance, though she struggles with accent consistency.

Oliver Kilbourne (played by Declan Mooney) is the group member whose talent seems most promising. He battles taking a chance as a painter supported by Sutherland over the security in remaining a miner. His character is the most complete, and he shares a nice chemistry with Cozort in their scenes together. Dennis Creaghan as George Brown and Rob Donohoe as Harry Wilson colorfully argue policies and politics. Colin McPhillamy as Jimmy Floyd is quite funny as the fellow not quite as quick on the draw as his chums. The men in the cast all provide a feeling of familiarity that works well to flesh out their relationships with one another.

The production's scenic design depicts the modest meetings hall where most of the action takes place. Costume design by Erin Amico is a textural tableau of wools and tweeds on the men, and elegant dresses and rich tones on Kim Cozort as Helen Sutherland. Sound, perhaps because of the accents, is a bit of a problem as one has to strain to hear the actors. Projection work ably assists the display of pieces of art. One can not help but fall a bit in love with the story of this group of men and some of the deceptively simple paintings (all of them quite real) they produced.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...perhaps because it was too busy being factual, the play never manages to muster much drama. The evening is intriguing -- there is surely a play in these miners’ story -- but this play is frustratingly inert.
Palm Beach Dramaworks certainly gathers a terrific company of actors for the play’s area premiere, but even they cannot hide the fact that their characters are rarely more than two-dimensional mouthpieces for the author’s arguments.

Oliver, played with understated sensitivity by Declan Mooney, is the only pitman who approaches a fully believable character. Colin McPhillamy as dense Jimmy Floyd gets some choice comic one-liners, but that’s really all we know about him. The rest of the miners are fine up to a point, but they have so few opportunities to distinguish themselves.

John Leonard Thompson (instructor Robert Lyon) is nicely unnerved by his students’ lack of knowledge, but he develops a palpable affection for them. And Kim Cozort adds a touch of class as art collector Sutherland, as well as showing off Erin Amico’s well-heeled costumes.

Director J. Barry Lewis stages the play simply and effectively, but it is hard to shake the feeling that there is a better play to be written about these pitmen artists from Ashington.
John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
At two hours and 40 minutes, the work is entirely too long, and Dramaworks' director, J. Barry Lewis, can't milk enough energy out of a play that, too often, spins its wheels. The Pitmen Painters doesn't have enough new ideas to sustain its duration, instead relying on reiterations of previous motifs...
The production is an egalitarian showcase for the talents of Declan Mooney, as the group's most promising artist; Dennis Creaghan, as its intransigent supervisor; Colin McPhillamy, as its lovable simpleton; Rob Donohoe, as its dyed-in-the-wool Marxist; Joby Earle, as its youngest member, jobless and floundering; and John Leonard Thompson, as the mirthless instructor. Betsy Graver, as a nude model, and Kim Cozort, as an affluent art patron, are introduced later, though the latter has some trouble projecting her accent, making a portion of her dialogue difficult to grasp.
Par for the course at Dramaworks, the production's technical elements are outstanding in their subtlety and unobtrusiveness...

But the best aspects of the production are the projection screens hanging from the top of the set. Once, while the professor is telling the miners' story to a gallery audience, a rotation of paintings flows across the three screens, competing for our eyes' attention and usually winning. In a play that can feel too much like a movie, this is one moment that's grounded firmly in the theater.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Art as an ennobling sanctification for both the artist and the observer whose interpretation completes the symbiotic circle is just one of a dozen themes swirling around Palm Beach Dramaworks’ stimulating production of The Pitman Painters.
All this philosophy is made accessible by Lewis, South Florida’s expert at clearly depicting complex concepts, plus the down to earth performances from a troupe of Dramaworks’ veterans.
Earle gets one terrific aria, set as the war intensifies, in which the young man rages at his older friends for sticking to their modest themes in contrast to the agony convulsing the outside world as seen in Picassso’s Guernica.
All of them deliver seamless, credible performances, especially the men who are never quite comfortable in a world that they had been taught to believe was reserved for a more refined, intellectual class.
As always, Dramaworks’ skilled creative team creates a multi-sensory environment. Michael Amico... dials it back for a simpler but equally evocative multi-purpose scene lined with dark woods that could be the same ones used to shore up the galleries in the mines instead of the galleries in museums.
He’s aided immeasurably by the morphing lighting of Ron Burns, and Matt Corey’s jolting soundscape... Erin Amico has clad the men in a variety of modest tweedy Sunday-go-to-meeting outfits offset by rough work shoes.
The sole quibble is that Pitman is a small chamber piece and the natural reticence of its heroes sometimes makes the audience long for just a little more fire to drive the dramatic flow other than Earle’s outburst.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Hall, who wrote Billy Elliot (the inspiring story of a working-class boy whose life is transformed through dance), examines history, class, politics and all those artistic questions in his warm-hearted play. Though the second act gets weighed down by political content that isn’t as resonant here, the play is mostly beguiling. And Dramaworks... is giving The Pitmen Painters a superb production exquisitely staged by J. Barry Lewis.
George Brown (Dennis Creaghan) is the by-the-books union man. Harry Wilson (Rob Donohoe) is a passionate Marxist. Jimmy Floyd (the amusing and bemused Colin McPhillamy) is an easygoing fella who would rather paint dogs and still-lifes than convey the brutal underground world the men know so well. George Brown’s young nephew (Joby Earle) is a restless lad on the dole. Oliver Kilbourne (Declan Mooney) is the miner-painter whose compelling journey carries us through the play, as he moves from a world defined by hard work, sacrifice and duty into a place of creativity and critically impressive observation.

John Leonard Thompson plays Robert Lyon, the painter and teacher whose work alters the miners’ lives even if he doesn’t always grasp his own intellectual condescension. Kim Cozort is the upper-class art patron Helen Sutherland, an elegant woman who makes a potentially life-altering offer to Oliver, one complicated by class, simmering sexual tension and the miner’s fears. Betsey Graver has a sweetly comic turn as Susan Parks, a working-class model whose potential nudity throws the neophyte artists into a tizzy.

The production’s design elements are of a piece with the performances and direction: topnotch. Michael Amico’s meeting-hall set transforms into a manor house and an array of galleries, the latter thanks to Robert Goodrich’s multimedia effects. Erin Amico establishes era and class through her beautifully designed costumes. Sound designer Matt Corey bridges scenes with the overwhelming clang of the miners’ daily world. And Ron Burns works magic with his lighting, at one point simulating the slow departure of a train from its station.
Palm Beach DramaWorks has extended its run of The Pitmen Painters through March 18, 2012.

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: RED (4 reviews)

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre opened its production of John Logan's RED on February 12, 2012.
It is the late 1950s and Mark Rothko, the famous Abstract Expressionist painter, is at a crossroads in his career. Intellectual, controlling and often bombastic, Rothko is at work on a surprising (and very well-paid) commission: a series of murals to hang at the Four Seasons restaurant in Midtown Manhattan's Seagram's Building.

The action follows the artist's struggle for integrity and understanding in the face of fame, self-questioning and impending irrelevance. Will his paintings survive in a place that represents everything - greed, commercialism, bourgeois comfort - he detests?
Lou Jacob directed Mark Zeisler and JD Taylor.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Scene for February 17, 2012 - UPDATED

UPDATE: we missed the opening of The Plaza Theatre, which is operating Florida Stage's old space in Manalapan.

We've got some hot shows opening this week in South Florida, not the least of which is RED, which you may remember played at GableStage earlier this season.  This is a rare opportunity to compare two productions by major regional theater companies.  Delou Africa's Sundiata, playing only one show this Saturday, will be a magical show for the whole family.  And of course, while every show that opens at DramaWorks is a production to make time for, The Pitman Players will make an interesting book-end to Billy Elliot, coming soon to Broward Center; the same man wrote both scripts.

Here's what's playing around South Florida this weekend...


The Plaza Theatre bursts onto the theatre scene with My Musical Comedy Life, Donna McKechnie's one-woman show.  But catch it fast; it's Friday and Saturday only.

RED returns to South Florida; this time, the Maltz Jupiter Theater offers its own production of this Tony-award winning play.

Palm Beach DramaWorks opens its production of The Pitman Painters.

My Fair Lady opens at the Stage Door this weekend.

Dreyfoos School of the Arts presents Metamorphoses, through February 26.

you still haven't missed...

Anagram Entertainment's production of Top Gun! The Musical plays at Empire Stage through March 4, 2012.

Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays at the Stage Door Theatre's Coral Springs location through March 4, 2012.

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

last chance to see...

New Theatre's production of Winter at the Roxy Performing Arts Center closes this Sunday, February 19, 2012.

Loquacious & Bodacious: The Life and Times of Zora Neale Hurston, starring Karen Stephens, ends its brief run at Actors' Rep on February 19, 2012.

August Wilson's The Piano Lesson at Andrews Living Arts Studio closes this Sunday, February 19, 2012.

The Miami Acting Company offering of The Odd Couple at The South Miami-Dade Cultural Center finishes its run on February 19.  We're not familiar with this company, but the show's director is Ken Kurtz,
former chair of the Theatre Department at UM.

Divorce Party: The Musical winds up its run at the Kravis Center's Rinker Playhouse this Sunday, February 19, 2012.

coming and going...

Delou Africa presents Sundiata:an African Folk Tale at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts this Saturday only.

passing through...

The national tour of La Cage Aux Folles stops at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts this week.  Palm Beach native George Hamilton stars.  Yes, that George Hamilton.

for kids...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
returns to The Playground Theatre through March 11, 2012.

Actors' Playhouse offers Alexander, Who's Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move! through March 9, 2012.

Snow White: An Enchanting Musical
plays at Showtime Dance and Performing Arts Theatre through March 10.

Miami Children's Theater presents I believe in Make Believe, through Sunday.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mondays are Dark

What a Coincidence!
Miami Artzine reports that The Playground Theatre's new Sandbox Series opens on Valentine's day, and the evening's offering is called Love Stories.  What are the chances?

New is New, and Old is New
The Sun-Sentinel reminds us that Louis Tyrell, founder of the late and lamented Florida Stage, is kicking off Theater at Arts Garage on each Tuesday this month.  Meanwhile, The Examiner reports that Florida Stage's old digs in Manalapan is home to The Plaza Theatre, opening this week with Donna McKechnie's one woman show My Musical Comedy Life.

Homecoming for La Cage Star
The Shiny Sheet reminds us that George Hamilton, star of screen and the current tour of La Cage Aux Folles, is a South Florida native.
Hamilton spent his late teens in Palm Beach and began his acting career at Palm Beach High School, where he earned a state prize for his starring role in Brigadoon before heading to Hollywood to try his luck in the movies.
Palm Beach High became Twin Lakes High, which in turn has become The Dreyfoos School of the Arts, which is adjacent to The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, where La Cage opens this Tuesday.

In the Green Room
Florida Theater On Stage interviews the inimitable Barbara Bradshaw.

BAA Announces Next Season at Broward Center
Florida Theater On Stage has the line up that Broadway Across America is bringing to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for their 2012-2013 season.  Million Dollar Quartet, Sister Act, Flashdance, and a re-tooled The Addams Family all lead up to the show everyone really wants to see: War Horse.  Oh, and Wicked.

Speaking of Broward Center
The next Broadway tour at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts is Billy Elliot, and Broadway World talks it up.

Painting the Town
The Palm Beach Post talks with the cast of Jupiter Theatre's production of RED.  If the play sounds familiar, GableStage's critically acclaimed production played to packed houses just a few months ago.  If you saw it there, you should see it here; it's a rare opportunity to see how different artistic visions can express the same script for us.

The Arsht Center has been in operation a little more than five years, and Stage Directions report that they just replaced their lighting system.  Compare that to The Broward Center, which is finally raising money to overhaul their two-decades-old space; they're still using the original Colortran lighting system installed in the late eighties!

Got a Minute?
The Rake Theater fills us in on the First South Florida One-Minute Play Festival, opening February 26 at The Deering Estate in Miami.

Censor-Free Grove Commentary
The Coconut Grove Grapevine picked up on the censorship at Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse, and created a place for Grovites to leave comments about The Playhouse.

Meanwhile... Palm Beach, the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed.  But the owner of the property is making some wild claims in The Shiny Sheet:
■ The Playhouse is available for lease and has been since we took control of the property in 2008.

■ We have spent more than $9,000 on 14 regularly run advertisements in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal during the last two years offering the Playhouse for rent. These efforts have yielded only a few out-of-state calls.
We find this curious; every week, we do an internet search on the three Playhouses mouldering in South Florida.  And not once in the  last five years that we've been doing these searches has a single listing of for The Royal Poinciana Playhouse appeared anywhere on the internet.  It must be one amazingly crappy piece of writing if it hasn't popped up once in our approximately 260 web searches on the subject.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Anagram Entertainement: Top Gun! The Musical (3 reviews)

Anagram Entertainment opened its production of Top Gun! The Musical at Empire Stage on February 9, 2012.
Singing. Satire. Subtext. If you see only one musical comedy about mounting a mega-musical, make it Top Gun! The Musical. You’ll laugh. You’ll hum. You’ll believe a jet can fly! For anyone who’s ever cringed through Cats, scratched their heads at Legally Blonde the Musical, felt the need for speed or wondered, “who thought THAT would be a good idea?”, comes this new satirical musical.

Top Gun! The Musical was the most successful show in the history of the Toronto Fringe Festival, playing to sell out crowds and unanimously good reviews. The South Florida premiere production features a strong ensemble of local singers and actors as well as new musical arrangements.
Jack Gardner directed a cast that included James Lott, Lindsey Johr, Laurence London, Christopher Michaels, Kelly Kopf, Todd Storey, Christie Oliver, Gisbert Heuer, Tommy Paduano, and James Dryburgh.

Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
...the musical satire, staged by Anagram Entertainment at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale, sputters to get airborne and then barely stays aloft in what appears to be an under-rehearsed, undisciplined production.
It's not a total crash and burn. The songs have just enough bite and sarcasm. There are so many backstage-musical punch lines that if you could look past the self-conscious movement, stiff acting and 'fair' to 'please-God-stop-singing' vocals, the show could be a cult hit.
John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
It's about the making of a disastrous musical adaptation of the cornball 1986 film, crash-landing from the beginning thanks to backstage rivalries, an overambitious director, a vain cast, and an ex-Navy SEAL producer aiming to use the musical as a propaganda tool.

The problem is, in this case it's impossible to tell the sloppiness of the 'show' from the sloppiness of the show. We know the musical within the musical is supposed to suck, but it takes a talented group to suck artfully.
The cast's enthusiasm for the project is apparent, but most of the actors simply don't have the goods. The dialogue between Todd Storey, as the exacting director, and Christie Oliver, as his production assistant, is stilted and artificial. The banter needs to snap, crackle, pop, and overlap; instead, the actors' sentences trail off as they wait for their partners to interrupt them, always one beat behind where they should be.
It gets worse. Listening to some of the players sing, it's a wonder they would ever be cast in a musical. They don't have the vocal range to sustain the requirements of the songs, and even the choreography — the most rudimentary steps I've seen in any musical anywhere — is performed ineptly. I will show some tact and not single out any names here, though it's worth mentioning that FAU student Lindsey Johr, as a gender-bending Goose, is a compelling presence who sings and acts circles around her colleagues. Her operatic, banshee pipes are one of the production's few highlights.
A couple of caveats: First, two of the actors I saw in the opening weekend production will be replaced in the following weeks, which may lead to some improvement. Second, the producing company, a new-to-Florida group called Anagram Entertainment, aims to foster new talent by casting inexperienced nonprofessionals in some roles, taking its chances on the results. If Anagram ever wants to be taken seriously in this outstanding theater community, then Top Gun! The Musical is an obvious argument against this approach.
When the character of Charlie (Kelly Kopf) complains to the director, "This is weak, Billy — it's amateur hour," I think she speaks for all of us.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Even though Top Gun! The Musical gets off to a promising start, with Goose pushing Maverick around the tiny stage in a cockpit that appears to have been fashioned from a wheelbarrow, singing the catchy song “We’ve Got a Plane to Catch” an opening number designed to give exposition about Maverick’s dead daddy issues, Top Gun! The Musical quickly takes a nose dive. There is no plot to speak of; the cast simply recreates/parodies various scenes from Top Gun, while dealing with typical backstage dramedy. would need a strong director and cohesively talented cast in order to make it work. Unfortunately, this production lacks both, and the promising material is a victim of sloppy execution.
Where to start? Perhaps with the lack of timing from the majority of the cast or the recitation that passes for delivery, or maybe that during the ensemble songs, each cast member seemed to be singing in a different key.
The exception to all of this is Michaels, who is a pleasure to watch. His performance injects his character with some personality and back-story, transcending the Iceman role to show the actor playing the character as a world-weary theatre gypsy who’s seen many big breaks fall through... Ironically, Michaels stepped in for an ailing actor, and only had six rehearsals before opening night.
As for the other actors — and that word is used very loosely — Storey recites his lines and never comes close to embodying the urgency of his character...
Oliver seems like a promising performer with a decent voice, but lacks stage confidence and can’t project. Many of her lines are inaudible in the back of the theatre, which in this case is the third row. Johr’s main attribute is her voice, and she loves to show it off to glass-shattering heights, a running joke in the play. Lott is as charisma-free as it gets, a non-descript actor who fades into the background, a baffling choice for cocky Maverick. Heuer gets one of the best songs in the show “Just Put the Asses in the Seats,” but he is a stiff performer and looks uncomfortable throughout his song and dance scene. Kopf is a triple threat: she can’t act, sing or dance.
Anagram Entertainment presents Top Gun! The Musical at Empire Stage through March 4, 2012.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Scene for February 10, 2012

Next to Normal closes this weekend; don't be left wondering what all the fuss is about at next year's Carbonell Awards.  And if you've seen it already, then go check out Chad Deity.  And in years to come, you don't want to miss out being able to brag about seeing the first ever show at Parade Productions.

Here's what's playing on professional stages around South Florida...


Anagram Entertainment opens its production of Top Gun! The Musical at Empire Stage.

Actors' Rep opens Loquacious & Bodacious: The Life and Times of Zora Neale Hurston, starring Karen Stephens.

August Wilson's The Piano Lesson opens at Andrews Living Arts Studio.

you still haven't missed...

New Theatre presents its production of Winter at the Roxy Performing Arts Center through February 19, 2012.

Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays at the Stage Door Theatre's Coral Springs location through March 4, 2012.

The Miami Acting Company presents The Odd Couple at The South Miami-Dade Cultural Center through February 19.  We're not familiar with this company, but the show's director is Ken Kurtz, former chair of the Theatre Department at UM.

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

last chance to see...

Parade Production's inaugural production of Donald Margulie's Brooklyn Boy closes February 12, 2012.

The critically acclaimed Next to Normal  ends its run at Actors' Playhouse this Sunday, February 12, 2012.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity also finishes its run at the Caldwell Theatre Company on February 12, 2012.  Another favorite with the critics!

coming and going...

Improvised Shakespeare
plays briefly at the Broward Center this Friday and Saturday.

Boynton Beach Club A New Musical In Concert  plays at the
Park Vista Theatre in Lake Worth this weekend only.

The Playground Theatre presents LOVE STORIES:  An Evening of Short Plays About Flirtation, Romance and Love, the first of its new Sandbox Series.

passing through...

Divorce Party: The Musical plays at the Kravis Center's Rinker Playhouse through February 19, 2012.

for kids...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
returns to The Playground Theatre through March 11, 2012.

Actors' Playhouse offers Alexander, Who's Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move! through March 9, 2012.

Snow White: An Enchanting Musical
plays at Showtime Dance and Performing Arts Theatre through March 10.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stage Door Theatre: Last of the Red Hot Lovers (5 reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers on January 27, 2012, where it played through March 4..  The production moved to the Byron Carlyle Theatre in Miami Beach on March 9 for an additional three week run,
In one of Neil Simon’s funniest and most famous comedies, Barney Cashman wants to be join the sexual revolution, but can’t. He utterly and hilariously fails at seduction.
Michael Leeds directed a cast that features Ken Clement, Elissa D. Solomon, Shira Abergel, and Carol Sussman.

Roger Martin reviewed for MiamiArtzine:
...Director Michael Leed's version of this classic, performed by this cast, proves once again the old adage that good writing, good direction and good acting will make even a sour old fart like me laugh out loud for two hours, and talk about it for two more hours after that.

So let's all bow and scrape before the graven images of Ken Clement, Shira Abergel, Elissa D. Solomon and Carol Sussman, who give Simon's script a rebirth worthy of any award in town.
Beverly Friend reviewed for The Chicago Critic:
Kudos to Clement for really nailing the role of an awkward, shy, inept, eager, highly vulnerable man who is more than a mere lothario.
And then there are the women – all portrayed with great skill and aplomb! This comedy is a showcase for actors. While each woman is onstage for only one scene, each gets the opportunity to flesh out her idiosyncratic role when facing off against Barney.
Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed attended for The Sun Sentinel:
It's hard to imagine how the Stage Door Theatre's production of the Neil Simon comedy "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" could be any better.

Seasoned performers, confident and relaxed in their roles? Check.

Sure-handed direction and period-perfect production? Check.

A laugh riot of a script that has lost nothing in the 43 years since it debuted on Broadway? Double-check.
You could hardly be blamed if you considered the women the stars of the show, what with juicy roles that give each an entire act to chew the scenery. But then, there is the male lead, Barney Cashman, a happily married (wait, wait, he explains all that) seafood restaurateur who has decided to earn extra credit through extramarital activities. He is the planet, and they are orbiting meteors, which you just know are going to crash and burn into him. But what a heavenly show they make doing it.
There is nothing old and tired about "Last of the Red Hot Lovers," and there is plenty of zing left in its zingers. While director Michael Leeds should get the lion's share of the credit, he is working with one of Simon's speak-softy-and-carry-a-big-stick plays. Simon never intrudes, never inserts himself, never draws attention to just how clever he is.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for Florida Theater On Stage:
Broward Stage Door Theatre has a knack for Neil Simon. Just when you thought there wasn’t much new to be done with yet another of Simon’s old chestnuts, the Coral Springs theater company presents a fresh production that’s entertaining from beginning to end.
The always likeable Ken Clement plays Barney Cashman... If Stage Door’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers belongs to anyone, it’s Clement, who creates the world of Barney Cashman, letting the audience in with ease and care... Clement sets the pace from the start with some flawless stagecraft business of setting up the apartment for his first guest. Another of the many highlights of his performance is his revealing monologue in Act 1, perfectly and delicately handled to add just the right touch of drama so as not to break the comic throughline for what’s to follow. Clement shines in every act, leading and following in each scene with his women almost as if it is part of a beautifully choreographed dance.
While Solomon is a worthy opponent for Clement in the verbal volleying that Simon gives the two actors, the actress could deliver her best lines with more conviction. Many times the best throwaways weren’t audible, either lost in audience laughter from a previous joke, or caught up in the actress’s battle against her character’s New Yawk accent.
Abergel... is absolutely enthralling as the kooky Bobbi. Hats off (or shall we say wigs off as Abergel has enough of them in this show) to the talented actress for embodying the delusional Bobbi rather than allowing the character to overpower her, which can easily happen in this role. Abergel and Clement have comic chemistry together and they are truly red hot here. They are the reason to see this show.
The role of Jeannette is perhaps the most difficult in the play because it is easy to get lost in a one-note mood that could turn the last act into a sour-puss downer. Clement works hard to keep the energy up, and thankfully so. Carol Sussman as Jeannette may have more success in exploring a range of emotion within the character’s words that tirelessly beat the drum of depression.
Director Michael Leeds understands the importance of the playwright’s pacing in Lovers and has obviously worked this show to make the most of comic timing; it doesn’t miss a beat.
With a cast and a production that have no fear of diving head first into the show’s comedy, chaos and affairs of the heart, Stage Door’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers immerses its audience in sizzling, dizzying fun.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Neil Simon’s The Last of the Red Hot Lovers is a vintage comedy... But as the Stage Door Theatre’s new production demonstrates, with the right actors, the play about a man in midlife-crisis mode still has plenty of satirical sting.

Credit director Michael Leeds and actors Ken Clement, Elissa D. Solomon, Shira Abergel and Carol Sussman with exploring a whole spectrum of emotional colors in what can otherwise be just one more Simon laughathon.
(The) second scene becomes the production’s comedic highlight, thanks to the odd-couple pairing of the ample, older, rich-voiced Clement and the agile, fast-talking, inventive Abergel. Leeds and the actors pack the scene with hilarious physical business and visual surprises. Seduction No. 2 also goes down in flames, but in a wildly entertaining way.
Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays at the Browad Stage Door Theatre through March 4, 2012.  It will open at the Miami Stage Door Theatre on March 9, where it will play through March 25th.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Since SAVE THE COCONUT GROVE has been deleting any comment made that in any contradicts their views and opinions, we decided to provide a place to discuss the issues surrounding The Coconut Grove Playhouse.

The 20 Million Dollar Question
One thing I asked STCGP about was their repeated claim that the $20 million grant being held in abeyance was specifically to restore the old building:

At the time, I questioned it because I remember that grant being set aside for capital improvements; they needed a new roof, much of the building was structurally unsound, and its technology was woefully out of date. I had friends working at the Grove when the grant was awarded, and I worked at The Miracle Theater in the Gables; I'm sure I would have noticed if the Grove was going to undergo a restoration.

I asked STCGP to supply me with a link to the grant, to verify that the monies were intended for restoring he theatre as opposed to repairing, maintaining or improving it.  After all, they are the ones making a claim about it.  Unfortunately, because they de-friended me, my comments are gone.  You can't see anything that I say, there's only one side of the conversation left; theirs.

But their side is damning enough.


It started when Steve Shapiro asked me to post something for him.  You see, Steve was a long-time staffer at The Grove, and is intimately familiar with the problems that faced it.  So he's got a solid insider's view on the issue of saving the Playhouse.

And so he posted his view on the matter on the Facebook page of Save The Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Shortly after he posted his comments, they were deleted.  So we took a look, couldn't find them, and posted a couple of questions about claims being made on the matter.  Not only were our comments deleted, the page de-friended us.

Here's what Steve said about his own experience with STCGP:
Whoever is monitoring that space deleted the comment in about 5 seconds. He is NOT interested in a real discussion on this matter.

I was wondering if you would be interested in offering a discussion of it on your blog. While I sympathize with their desire to preserve a "piece of history", even when we were open, I believed that to keep the Playhouse going the theater would need to be renovated. While I think these people's hearts are in the right place, it's that heart that will forever prevent the Playhouse from being a viable theater again.
What Steve is saying - and The Scene has mentioned before - that the original structure, restored to its previous best condition, isn't up to fullfilling the mission of a professional theater in the 21st century, and may even hinder the daily operation of a professional theater company.

So we're going to delve into the matter right here.  We're going to examine claims being made, and we're going to find the facts of the matter.

Here's the comments that Steve made that Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse didn't want you to read:
"I was the sound man at The Playhouse for 16 years, right up to the day they closed. Let me offer a differing opinion. The physical plant at the Playhouse NEEDS to be renovated and upgraded. Let's not even get into the decay that has inevitably occurred since its closing.
  • The lack of wing space and low fly ceiling made the theater insufficient to sustain the kind of show that made it famous in its heyday.
  • The lack of an orchestra pit was a great detriment to the presentation of a musical.
  • The size of the house chamber (1100 seats) was too small to accommodate a big musical, but too large for a drama . Our program of delivering pre- Broadway theater was diminishing owing to limitations of the stage house, and intimate drama was very difficult owing to the size of the house.
While I admire your effort to preserve a local treasure, I assure you that the building as it stands is the major obstacle to making it a viable theater. It MUST be renovated if it is to be resurrected. Just my opinion, but one that comes from working in that space everyday for its last 16 years."
If Steve's name seems vaguely familiar, it's because during those 16 years and for a few years after, he has been one of the most highly acclaimed sound designers in South Florida.  He has a shelf-full of awards he's earned in that time.

But Save the Coconut Grove doesn't think his opinion is worth hearing.

The Scene, on the other hand, looks forward to a debate on the matter.  All we ask is that if you make any claim, you provide a link to a source that verifies or at least validates that claim.  We will remove libelous comments, but only those.  We don't even mind if you swear.

So the topic of THIS post is, "Was STCGP playing fair when it deleted this comment?  Should a grassroots movement trying to instill people to exercise democracy exempt itself from democratic principles such as airing dissenting opinions?"

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mondays are Dark

We're going to start this week's reading list with a couple of stories about theaters going through some tough times; nobody's closing, but it's a rocky time.

Not Open, But Not Gone

Florida Theater On Stage broke the story that The Women's Theater Project has had to postpone the rest of its season, due to losing its venue:
Lasher said finding a new venue was the immediate challenge. At least one venue offered to help, but could not be certain two months in advance of a particular show whether the space would be available. That makes it difficult to hire actors, do publicity or even guarantee subscribers a season.
But TWTP President Meredith Lasher added Thursday, “We’re not going out of business, we’re not folding…. We have thousands of dollars in the bank.”
The company is still planning to mount Girl Play 2012, its annual lesbian-themed playwriting festival.

Still Open, And Not Gone Either
Florida Theater On Stage also broke the news that the Caldwell Theater Company is considering filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.  But be assured, the 37 year old company plans to continue producing plays:
In 2012, the board remains optimistic that the Caldwell can survive, even prevail, Cholerton said. “We feel very confident. After all, GM emerged from bankruptcy, a leaner, meaner company. South Florida needs this cultural institution.”
Chapter 11 means that the company remains in operation, protected from its creditors seizing their assets while they try to re-organize.  Florida Stage, which closed its doors last year, took a different route: Chapter 7, which means that all its assets are sold off to settle its debts.

Speaking of Florida Stage...
Louis Tyrell, the former producing director of the late company (which is gone), is back with a new venture, according to The Shiny Sheet.  His new project is The Theater at Arts Garage and it launches Tuesday with a reading series.  A lot of the playwright's names will be familiar, and expect to see some familiar names doing the reading.

It's Like Mad Libs.
Remember Mad Libs?  The game where you'd insert random nouns, verbs and adjectives into a pre-written story and hope that the result was hilarious?  Well, the last couple of years folks have been inserting various nouns in front of the words "The Musical," and praying for success.
The Sun-Sentinel tells us about the latest entry in this genre, Top Gun! The Musical! It's being produced by Anagram Entertainment at Empire Stage.

When Art Meets Medicine

The Miami Herald tells us about the talk-back sessions for Next To Normal at Actors' Playhouse, which features medical professionals answering questions and addressing issues raised by the play.
Hialeah-bred Rioseco plays the son of a couple in the Pulitzer-winning musical of a woman’s struggle with bipolar disorder and the familial toll that fight takes. He has joined his cast mates and medical staff from the psychiatry department at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for pre- and post-performance talk backs.
Not Your Grandfather's Bard
The Examiner reports that the Improvised Shakespeare Company is coming to The Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Using audience suggestion, the Improvised Shakespeare Co. creates a fully improvised play in Elizabethan style which might be filled with power struggles, star-crossed lovers, sprites, kings, queens, princesses, sword-play, rhyming couplets, asides, insults, persons in disguise and all that we've come to expect from the pen of the great Bard.
The company is also holding a workshop at Broward Center.

Free Tix and This and That and Stuff
They're offereing free tickets to LION KING that the Arsht Center on Saturday that's the lede of the article, but The Miami Herald also reports that The Playground Theater is presenting the first of its Sandbox Series on February 12.  And other stories are crammed into the article.

An Audience Request
Parabasis brings us a simple request from an audience member.

If We Could See Her Now...
Broadway World reports that Margot Moreland will be starring in the Boca Raton Theatre Guild production of Sweet Charity.
“It is surprising to me that Sweet Charity doesn't receive more recognition, after all it's a dream role for a lot of women,” Garsson says. “In this case it's a dream cast with one of South Florida's finest musical comediennes, Margot Moreland, as Charity. Margot has always wanted to play this role. What can I say? The timing was perfect and early rehearsals proved she owned this part immediately.”
Mmm.  We remember a production at the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training back in the early nineties...  but that's all that comes to mind.  Entirely coincidentally, Moreland is an alumnus of B.R.I.T.T.

New Theatre: Winter (4 reviews)

New Theatre opened its world premiere production of Robert Caisley's Winter on February 3, 2012.
In this witty new play, what begins as a scheduling headache arranging their mother's funeral evolves into an all-out blood feud between fraternal twins Peter and Christina Winter and their mother's mysterious, young live-in assistant.
Ricky J. Martinez directed a cast that included Scott Douglass Wilson, Annemaria Rajala, Nicole Quintana, and Barbara Sloan.

Chris Joseph reviewed for The Miami New Times:
Winter is a quality production for New Theatre, thanks mainly to Caisley's darkly humorous script and a solid cast. Wilson gives a lucid and robust performance as Peter. His comedic timing is brilliant, deftly displaying a man immersed in intellectual bluster who's further handicapped by his high-maintenance fiancée, his demanding mother-in-law, and his sister's heavy-handed personality. Rajala holds her own as a cold and calculating Christina, while Quintana gives a moving and restrained turn as Sophie. New Theatre veteran Barbara Sloan's portrayal of the spirit of Mother Winter is both vulnerable and droll. It's a bit part, but Sloan's understated performance is vital.
...director Ricky J. Martinez's use of soft lighting and proper blocking keep things centered and focused.
At roughly 90 minutes without intermission, the play at times drags (there is a sort of unspoken sexual tension between two of the characters that seems unnecessary to the plot). But overall, New Theatre has struck a positive chord.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Perhaps being buffeted about the head and shoulders by a terminal velocity flow of words slows down time.  It's the only reason I have for a ninety minute show seemingly dawdling around for another hour... along the way we're treated to Caisley's pretty smart writing, a witticism or two, a smack with a dead fish more often as not, as brother and sister revile each other endlessly and repetitiously, leading the way down a well marked path.  
Annemaria Rajala is well cast as the virulent sister as is Scott Douglas Wilson as the six and a half minute younger brother.  Good actors both, saddled with mutual antagonism that never ends.

Set designer Nicole Quintana plays mother's companion, refereeing as best she can the squabbling siblings, calmly playing the hostess now that mother is dead, quietly knowing the upshot of the evening.  She uses an interestingly exotic accent, sometimes British, sometimes not, always mystifying.

Barbara Sloan, as usual, is impressive, despite having to lean off the front of the stage, peer at the audience through bird watching binoculars and warble something like: “Oh look, there's a rosy breasted, clubfooted cardinal”. 
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Director Ricky J. Martinez gets nice performances from his able cast: Sloan as a dreamy ghost whose life’s passions were bird-watching and one other person, Quintana (who also designed the simple, attractive set with its verdant garden background) as the inscrutable Sophie, Rajala as the relentlessly tough Christina, Wilson as the already-henpecked and puffed-up Peter.

Some of Caisley’s writing is smart and funny, some (such as the running gag about Christina always getting the hometown of Peter’s Canadian finance wrong) labored or implausible. It doesn’t help that sound is an issue, so that at times even the most attentive listener with perfect hearing will miss some of the dialogue. But given that Winter is following the inevitable downfall of such a neglectful, entitled pair, maybe that isn’t so bad after all.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Robert Caisley’s script could use some pruning and actors Scott Douglas Wilson and Annemaria Rajala could use a bit more stage time to get comfortable with the punishing cascade of dialogue. But neither flaw cripples the three from creating an ultimately harrowing evening of drama under the direction of Ricky J. Martinez as we watch the already fractured family melt down completely.
Caisley is an experienced playwright whose Kissing played at New Theatre in 2009. Like the scripts in most first full productions, his Winter needs some judicious editing before a subsequent production...  His rhythms and verbiage are impressive, but sometimes they overwhelm the talented cast members who could use few more performances to become accustomed to Caisley’s verbal corkscrews.

This shortfall is evident because Martinez allows the two leads to barrel through the dialogue as if the meaning of their lines doesn’t deserve a bit of timing and topspin on a reading.
But all the elements brought together by Martinez and company fuse together in the final minutes as the last devastating secret is revealed, leaving behind an emotional wasteland.
...this is some of Martinez’s best work, especially the physical staging...
Sloan, as always, has a lifeforce that shines like an aura. Quintana is adequate if lacking the charisma that would explain part of the plot.
The play belongs to Wilson and Rajala who both invest their slightly cartoonish characters with a sense of credibility. These are cold, cold creatures who the actors somehow make us feel a smidgen of compassion for.
New Theatre presents its production of Winter at the Roxy Performing Arts Center through February 19, 2012.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Scene for February 3, 2012

It's hard to believe that it's already February; the good news is that means that the Theatre Season is in full swing.

But alas, there's some not-so-good news;
  • Anagram Entertainment  has had to delay its opening of Top Gun: The Musical due to an illness in the cast. We know you're heartbroken, but you'll be able to see it starting Thursday February 9th at Empire Stage.  And then you'll believe a jet can fly.
  • Sadly, we might have to wait a bit longer for the next show at The Women's Theatre Project, which recently lost its venue.  It hasn't been able to find a suitable alternative, so it's postponed the rest of its season until it finds a space.  But we have no doubt that they'll be back on the scene before too long.
In the meantime; here are shows that are playing around South Florida...


The New Theatre presents yet world premiere play, Winter, by Robert Caisley.

The Miami Acting Company
presents The Odd Couple at The South Miami-Dade Cultural Center through February 19.  We're not familiar with this company, but the show's director is Ken Kurtz, former chair of the Theatre Department at UM.

you still haven't missed...

Parade Production's inaugural production of Donald Margulie's Brooklyn Boy will play through February 12, 2012.

The Stage Door presents Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers at its Coral Springs location through March 4.  We have also learned that they cast Ken "Cast Ken!" Clement.

The critics are raving about Next to Normal at Actors' Playhouse. It plays through February 12, 2012.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity plays at the Caldwell Theatre Company through February 12, 2012.  Another favorite with the critics!

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

last chance to see...

The GableStage's critically acclaimed production of The Motherfucker with the Hat ends its run on Sunday February 5, 2012.  You might meet playwright Stephen Adly Guirguis if you do, according to The Drama Queen.

Snoopy! The Musical winds up its run at Area Stage on February 5, 2012.

Second City in Laugh Out Loud plays February 2 only at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center.

coming and going...

Shakespeare Miami offers up its yearly outdoor offering; A Midsummer Night's Dream. It plays this weekend at The Young Circle Amphitheater in Hollywood.

Miss Abigial's Guide to Dating Mating and Marriage plays three performances only at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on February 3rd and 4th.

passing through...

Divorce Party: The Musical plays at the Kravis Center's Rinker Playhouse through February 19, 2012.

for kids...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
returns to The Playground Theatre through March 11, 2012.

Actors' Playhouse offers Alexander, Who's Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move! through March 9, 2012.

Sol Children's Theatre Troupe presents Narnia the Musical through February 5.

Snow White: An Enchanting Musical
plays at Showtime Dance and Performing Arts Theatre through March 10.