Sunday, April 28, 2013

Congratulations Are In Order

Karen Stephens was awarded the 2013Randolph A. Frank Prize for the Performing Arts, along with Dan Guinn of the Boca Ballet Theatre. 

Here is the press release:

FIFTH ANNUAL RANDOLPH A. FRANK PRIZE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
AWARDS PAIR OF WINNING ARTISTS
Steven Caras, Founding Chairman of the Randolph A. Frank Prize for the Performing Arts, has announced that two individuals whose dedicated work enhances the quality of life here in Palm Beach County have been selected by the Frank Prize Board of Directors (Steven Caras, Tracy C. Butler, Jo Ann Engelhardt, Ann Marie Rezzonico, Roy Bartolomei, and Craig D. Ames) to be the fifth annual, 2013 recipients. They will be awarded crystal trophies and a monetary prize at a private ceremony in their honor that will take place on May 20, 2013, at Nick & Johnnie's Patio Bar and Grill restaurant. The event is sponsored by Nancy and Jay Parker of Palm Beach.

Karen Stephens, a professional actor who has been awarded this year's Performing Artist Prize, is a native of West Palm Beach whose interest in the performing arts began with her study of violin. But subsequent rewarding experiences in public speaking through National Forensics and a high school drama club clearly determined the direction her future would take. Today, after many years working professionally in South Florida, Karen Stephens has established herself as an artist of note in her inspired work as an actor, writer, performer, and director. Most recently appearing in the Maltz Jupiter Theater's production of DOUBT, she also continues to perform regularly at many of South Florida's professional venues. In 2011, Ms. Stephens was featured in the regional premiere of Sarah Jones' one-woman show; BRIDGE & TUNNEL for which she was honored with the New Times Best Actress Award as well being nominated for a Carbonell Award in the category of Best Actress. She is also the recipient of numerous other honors including the Curtain Up, Silver Palm and Clyde Fyfe Awards for her outstanding work as one of our community's most respected and cherished performing artists.

Dan Guin, Executive and Co-Artistic Director of Boca Ballet Theatre, has been awarded the Performing Arts Educator Prize. After spending the summer of 1991 in Boca Raton devoted to establishing a summer dance workshop, Dan knew that the minute his dance career was behind him, he'd be back. Two years later, Dan returned to accept the position of Artistic Director of the newly formed Boca Ballet Theatre and from the onset, his significant contribution to our community as a motivating educator has been extensive and widely successful. Celebrating their 20th year, the dance company provides the community with exhilarating original productions, featuring all enrolled students with ballet super star guest artists inspiring both audience members and students alike. BBT's school continues to honor Mr. Guin's original mission in providing local dance students the very best instruction, making certain that no child is denied ballet training due to financial circumstances. First piloted in 1999, BBT's First Step Program provides at-risk children from economically challenging circumstances training in modern dance and classical ballet, while covering all related costs from dance clothes to transportation. Mr. Guin received the Colin Powell School of Promise Award for the development of this vital program. On April 22nd, 2013, in collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group and Brooklyn Parkinson's Group, the organization adds another important project to their mission. Boca Ballet Theatre will introduce BBT 4 PD which will offer free Monday classes to anyone living with Parkinson's, taught by dance teachers specifically trained to instruct individuals with the disease.

"I am both elated and humbled to be awarded this prize and honor. It is a validation of my work as artist and my commitment to the artistic culture of Palm Beach County. Receiving the Randolph A. Frank Prize will not only aid me in continuing my own work but will also help to further imprint my art on the cultural landscape. Thank you!"- Karen Stephens
"Without the support of our patrons and volunteers my vision and success could not have come to fruition. Receiving the Frank Prize is a tremendous honor for me and validates so many people’s unwavering support. I am truly grateful.” - Dan Guin
Congratulations to both recipients.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Scene for April 26, 2013

Sorry; we're really late this week.  Even though the theater season is slowing down, our own work in theater has been very busy over the last few weeks.

Not a lot of new shows opening this week, save for one in Coral Gables.

It's the National Children's Theater Festival Family Day at Actors' Playhouse this Saturday.  The centerpiece of the day's events is the premiere of the new children's musical Excellent Conquest.  In addition, there will be magicians and singers and storytellers, as well as lots of hands-on activities.

Here's what's playing on the scene this weekend.


you still haven't missed...

Zoetic Stage presents its production of Evan Smith's The Savannah Disputation at the Arsht Center through May 18, 2013.

Stage Door Theatre Company opens Jeffrey at the Byron Carlisle Theater in Miami Beach, through May 5.  But it looks like someone hacked their Miami website.  Ooops.

Fresh Theater Project presents Joe and Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts through May 5th.

Waist Watchers the Musical has been packing them in at The Plaza Theatre - it's been extended through May 12!

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.


coming and going...

Priscilla Queen Of The Desert
plays at the Kravis Center through April 28, 2013.


last chance to see...

Palm Beach Dramaworks' criticially acclaimed Exit The King winds up its run on April 28, 2013.

Broward Stage Door's upmteenh revival of Beau Jest through April 28.


community and conservatory...

South Pacific plays UM's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre through April 27.

Florida Atlantic University
stages the classic Lysistrata, through April 27.

Lake Worth Playhouse presents Barnum through April 28.

The African-American Performing Arts Community Theater (AAPACT) production of Anne & Emmett plays at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center through May 12, 2013.

The Main Street Players offers Glengarry Glen Ross through May 19.

Over The River and Through the Woods plays at the Tamarac Theatre Of Performing Arts through May 5, 2013.


for kids...

Showtime Performing Arts presents Mulan through May 4.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Stage Door: Beau Jest (reviews)

. The Stage Door Theater opened its production of Beau Jest on April 5, 2013.
When Sarah Goldman, a lovely young school teacher in Chicago, wants to please her parents, she invents a boyfriend whom she believes will be the man of her mother's dreams.
When her parents insist on meeting the man, Sarah hires Bob, an actor, to pretend to be her "beau". The masquerade works flawlessly for a time and brings comic situations, but in the end, their lives are irrevocably changed.
Michael Leeds direted a cast that included Matthew William Chizever, Sara Fetgatter, Sally Bondi, Larry Kent Bramble, Justin Lawrence and Mark Levy.

.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
... Beau Jest simply resonates in South Florida. So reviving it — particularly if the revival works as well as the Michael Leeds-directed one at Stage Door — makes sense.
Chizever does most of the comedic heavy lifting as Bob, an actor who gained most of his insights into Judaism from being in productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Cabaret.. His Bob is always one blown line away from wrecking Sarah’s fiction, so Chizever makes the actor energized, nervous and very funny.
Fetgatter is a sweet and pretty Sarah... Bondi and Bramble are saddled with stereotypical characters... but the actors bring plenty of warmth to the senior Goldmans. Both Lawrence and Levy are effective in their far smaller roles.
Director Leeds keeps the comedy breezy and affectionate. Characters come into conflict, get hurt and come out the other side OK. Beau Jest is neither deep nor great, but Leeds and his cast explore and deliver its modest pleasures.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Beau Jest has been around so long that... The uber-Jewish farce may have been the first show Ponce de Leon saw on his first visit to these shores at the Fountain Dinner Theater.

But there’s a reason, as seen in Broward Stage Door’s revival.  Despite a sentimental mechanical finale and humor so vaudevillian you can hear the rim shots, James Sherman’s may be script may be formulaic but it’s also truly funny, especially when enhanced by the skills of star Matthew William Chizever and director Michael Leeds.

Chizever, who nailed his dramatic roles last season in GableStage’s Venus In Fur and Naked Stage’s The Turn of the Screw, is emerging as a first-rate light comedian. He hasn’t always scored in some shows, but it’s becoming clear that when he has the right director, he has an easy charm that cloaks a gently subversive wit and a wicked sense of comic timing.
(ed. note - Bill obviously never saw Laffing Matterz when Chizever was a cast member; he was a practiced comic actor before striking out to land the dramatic roles)
The rest of the cast is pretty solid with troupers like Bondi and Bramble knowing exactly how to deliver dialogue so predictable that the audience knows what’s coming. Fetgatter is also a nice addition, investing a lovably hapless anxiety to the gatherings that seem to teeter on the brink of disaster.

But the real star is Leeds who keeps the farcical proceedings humming without seeming forced or rushed... He invents or allows his cast to inject scores of clever grace notes.
Beau Jest plays at the Broward Stage Door Theater through April 28, 2013.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello, this is Andie Arthur, Executive Director of the South Florida Theatre League and I'm here with Off Stage Conversations, where I take a look at what the national and international theatre community is talking about.

Gender Parity

This week is Gender Parity Discussion week at HowlRound, with the weekly howl on twitter tomorrow afternoon. There's a lot of good discussion happening, both on HowlRound and off.

Brad Erikson (the executive director of Theatre Bay Area) interviews Carey Perloff, the artistic director ACT who talks about the management side of the gender parity issue and childcare.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson interviews playwright Lydia Diamond.

Lauren Gunderson also has some practical ideas on how to address parity.

And Monica Byrne points out that this is a practical issue and instead of focusing on hand-wringing -- we (as theatre artists) should do something practical in response. Boycott theatres not committed to gender parity in 2014. Change won't happen unless there is an incentive to change.

Auditions and Rejections

Melissa Hillman writes from a producers' perspective on why we have auditions. Meanwhile Rica Bramon Garcia writes for BackStage on why actors need to embrace rejection.

President Obama's NEA Budget and the Tax Code

Obama's Proposed Budget includes increased funding for the NEA, but arts advocates are concerned about the capping of income tax deductions.

If This Works, We're Doing It

Three Chicago Theatre Companies band together to hire a joint development director.

Stop Settling

Megan Reilly talks about how designers need to stop settling and create vivid designs with respect to their limitations.

TCG Takes on Audience Engagement

David Loehr of 2amt is now working with TCG on audience engagement. The post is mostly an intro post to David and 2amt, but I'm posting it here because it has this piece of great wisdom:
And for the love of God, if your company retweets people praising your company over and over, stop that. Your followers already like you, they don’t need convincing. Potential followers don’t want to see the hard sell, that’s an instant turn-off.
Both David and I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Do cool things and the social media audience will follow. There is even a cartoon about this.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

AAPACT: Anne & Emmett (reviews)

The African-American Performing Arts Community Theater (AAPACT) opened its production of Anne & Emmett at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center on April 20, 2013.
A one act play that explores an imaginary conversation between Anne Frank and Emmett Till, both victims of racial intolerance and hatred. The beyond-the-grave encounter draws the startling similarities between the two youths’ harrowing experiences and the atrocities against their respective races.
Teddy Harrell, Jr. directed a cast that included Shawn Burgess, Zasha Shary, Kandace Crystal, Sheldon Cohen and Tommy O’Brien.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre (AAPACT) has just opened its version of Anne & Emmett at Miami’s African Heritage Cultural Arts Center. And, like the play itself, the production is uneven.
The most valuable asset director Teddy Harrell Jr. has in AAPACT’s Anne & Emmett is Burgess. The young actor gives a rich, credible performance as a teen whose vibrant nature and humor give way to traumatized stuttering and an understandable refusal to revisit his demise in words.
The rest of the cast is problematic. Shary, who is making her stage debut, has two chief emotional modes: angry and dreamy. She mispronounces some words (“Hedy Lamarr” becomes “Heidi Lamarr,” for example), and sometimes comes off as a petulant brat. Crystal gives an earnest performance as Till’s mother, but she’s so young (seemingly so close in age to Burgess) that she’s hard to buy in the role. Cohen fumbles and stumbles in trying to remember lines, undercutting his effectiveness. As J.W. Millam, one of Till’s acquitted killers, Tommy O’Brien spews unrepentant racism and hatred.
Michelle Solomon wrote for Florida Theater On Stage:
Director Teddy Harrell, Jr. lets Langhart Cohen’s piece speak for itself, adding staging that creates wonderfully framed pictures to the thoughtful script —  this imagined crossing of paths.
Burgess as Emmett is the standout here.  He’s likeable, adding a bit of adolescent swagger to the boy who hoped to grow up to be a comedian or a motorcycle policeman. His awestruck innocence is infectious when he closes his eyes to take us through a bit of modern Black History
Shary’s Anne Frank is solid as a rock, smart as a whip, and as determined as one might imagine this heroine to be. Her overwhelming emotion at the horror of Emmett’s story is heart-wrenching and real.
AAPACT’s Anne & Emmett is a beautifully constructed portrait of two young heroes who, unbeknownst to them, made a world of difference.
The African-American Performing Arts Community Theater (AAPACT) production of Anne & Emmett plays at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center through May 12, 2013.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mondays are Dark

Photo by Teddy Harrell
Today's "dark" theater is at The African-American Performing Arts Community Theater (AAPACT) at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center.  The center's Wendell A Narcisse Performing Arts Theater is a black box that can seat up to 250.  Located in the heart of Liberty City, it's actually fairly easy to get to, and does have off-street parking.  And AAPACT does work worth seeing - don't let the "community" appellation put you off.  They are currently running Anne & Emmett (see below).

Here's your Monday reading list.

Sheesh, what DIDN'T Ben Franklin Invent?
Butts In Seats tells us about the Father of Matching Grants.  Who knew?  But we're not surprised.

Attention Playwrights (aspiring and otherwise)
While it's South WEST Florida, Broadway World reports that the Gulfshore Playhouse's New Works Festival is looking for submissions from playwrights from all over.  It's just across Alligator Alley...

NOT The Recommended Method
Stage Directions reports that a college theatre in Quebec got its pending renovation fast-tracked after their rigging system failed during a speech by the president of the college.
The college had budgeted for a replacement “within the next five years,” said Geoff Stock, project manager with J. R. Clancy, Inc. “While the president was doing a presentation in the auditorium, one of the hydraulic hoists slipped, and the pipe crept in behind him.”

Suddenly the replacement rose to the top of the agenda.
Quelle surprise.

Into The Thick Of It
Howround decides to engage in theatre criticism.  But not in South Florida.  YET...

You Know, For The Kids...
The Miami Herald reminds us that the 18th Annual National Children's Theatre Festival kicks off this Saturday from noon to 5pm at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater.  And as usual, the centerpiece will be the wold premiere of a new musical.  This year, it's the rock musical Excellent Conquest, by Earl Maulding and Scott Morlock.

Two Teens Who Never Met
The Miami Herald notes that The African-American Performing Arts Community Theater (AAPACT) is performing Anne & Emmett.  Anne Frank and Emmit Till died on separate continents and decades apart, but both as a result of racial prejudice.

An Actor Talks about An Actor Walks...
The Drama Queen reminds us that Collin McPhillamy will be reading selections from his book, An Actor Walks Into China, at Palm Beach Dramaworks this Thursday at 2:30 pm.  And if you have the chance to stay and see his performance in Exit the King that evening, do.

Meanwhile...
...in Miami, the Coconut Grove Playhouse is one step closer to becoming a reality, according to Florida Theater On Stage. Well, one very small step closer:
But the road to actually opening up a theater on the property is still long and complex, especially because of pending lawsuits from groups that claim debts owed by the non-profit Coconut Grove Playhouse’s board of directors. No public entity connected to the arrangement wants to incur any debt in the deal, spokespeople have said.
...in Palm Beach, Patrick Flynn may be gone, but his dream is living on, according to the Palm Beach Daily News:
“The theater guild never was Patrick Flynn,” he said. “It wasn’t a one-man show. A lot of people have invested time and money in the group. It was crystal clear that we could not just shut it down.”
The Palm Beach based National Arts Institute has signed a letter of intent to lease the Royal Poinciana Playhouse from Sterling Palm Beach, but no lease has yet been signed.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Miami Stage Door Theater: Jeffrey (reviews)

Stage Door Theatre Company opened its production of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey at the Byron Carlyle Theater in Miami Beach on April 12, 2013.
Jeffrey, a gay actor/waiter, has sworn off sex after too many bouts with his partners about what is "safe" and what is not. Suddenly, just after he's reconciled himself to celibacy, Jeffrey's flamboyant friends introduce him to the man of his dreams, who also happens to be HIV-positive. What follows is an audacious and moving romantic comedy with a difference—one in which the quest for love and really fabulous clothes meet, and where unflagging humor prevails even when tragedy might be just around the corner.
Dan Kelly directed a cast that included himself, Randy Charleville, Miki Fridh, Clay Cartland, Daniel Robert Rosenstrauch, and Frank Vomero.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Jeffrey, which has resurfaced in a buoyant, touching production by the Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre at the Byron Carlyle, swirls around the life of its titular hero. 
Shane R. Tanner, Randy Charleville, Larry Buzzeo and Niki Fridh impressively play multiple men and women who move in and out of Jeffrey’s world, offering everything from come-ons to comfort. 
Played by a less skilled actor, Jeffrey could quickly grow tiresome. Cartland gives him dimension and depth, helping the audience see the world through Jeffrey’s eyes. The actor rides Rudnick’s comic wave, but the richness he brings to the part is most powerfully on display at the end of the first act.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
It’s weird but wonderful that two full decades after the height of the AIDS crisis that Paul Rudnick’s touching but hilarious satire Jeffrey now revived at Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre feels a bit like a period piece.
The reason Jeffrey still works, Rudnick’s uninhibited wicked wit aside, is that the underlying themes are universal and timeless: the overriding importance of pursuing and savoring love despite the risk of loss, something that director Dan Kelley and his cast embrace fearlessly.
Kelley smoothly negotiates the transformation from the hilarious to the heartfelt by adjusting the amount of those two yin-and-yang elements in the mix. Both are always present.
Crucial to the production’s success is Cartland’s central performance. He exudes such an affable Tom Hanks kind of vibe that we can nearly forgive Jeffrey’s brusquely stiff-arming Steve’s open-hearted advances. Cartland has a wonderful stiletto twist with a dry line of humor, but it’s his quiet but intense anxiety that gives the play its emotional heart.

Rosenstrauch is also solid as the impossibly patient Steve, as is the entire cast playing multiple parts.

But the pleasure is watching Kelley as Sterling... it’s notable that while Kelley is terribly funny here, he never relies on vaudevillian shtick or over-the-top camping. His Sterling is real and relatable, and undeniably poignant in his sadness at the end of the play.
Stage Door Theatre Company presents Jeffrey at the Byron Carlyle Theater in Miami Beach through May 5, 2013.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Scene for April 19, 2013

One of the tools that has allowed us to serve you, the South Florida Theatre patron, so ably over the years has been a marvelous piece of software known as Scribefire.

It's a blog editor that installs as an add-on to Firefox, Chrome or Safari.  While we're surfing the inter-webs, Scribefire opens in a little window either at the bottom or at the side of your blog window, allowing you to copy and drag text or images into it to compose a blog post.

Or rather, it used to do that.  The developer (a college student) gave up on it a few years back, so it hasn't changed any.  In the meantime, Firefox (and other web browswers) have continued evolving.  Earlier this week, we discovered that Scribefire will no longer open, no matter how many time you click the icon, or press the soft-key. And right-clicking it brings you to a set-up wizard that won't accept any input.

Scribefire is effectively dead.  And we're left with, oh yes, choices of blog editors, but none of them are integrated with our web browers.

This makes our process slower by many orders of magnitude. It also subtly changes the formatting, since the Blogger editor codes text in a slightly different (if more correct) manner.

Anywho, that's why we're so late.  Here's what's playing on the scene this weekend.


you still haven't missed...

Zoetic Stage presents its production of Evan Smith's The Savannah Disputation at the Arsht Center through May 18, 2013.

Palm Beach Dramaworks presents Exit The King through April 28, 2013.

Broward Stage Door offers Beau Jest through April 28.

Stage Door Theatre Company opens Jeffrey at the Byron Carlisle Theater in Miami Beach, through May 5.  But it looks like someone hacked their Miami website.  Ooops.

Fresh Theater Project presents Joe and Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts through May 5th.

Waist Watchers the Musical has been packing them in at The Plaza Theatre - it's been extended through May 12!

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.


coming and going...

SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody plays at Parker Playhouse tonight and Saturday only.

Kravis Center presents An Evening With Groucho tonight and tomorrow.


last chance to see...

The Slow Burn Theatre Company  production of Sweeney Todd finishes its all too brief run at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater this Sunday April 21, 2013.

Outré Theatre Company presents An Iliad at The Black Box Studio at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center through April 21, 2013.

The M Ensemble presents It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through April 21, 2013

The Addams Family is altogether ookie at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through April 21.


community and conservatory...


Area Stage Company offers An Evening Of One Act Plays through April 21.

South Pacific plays UM's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre through April 27.

Florida Atlantic University
stages the classic Lysistrata, through April 27.

Lake Worth Playhouse presents Barnum through April 28.

Over The River and Through the Woods plays at the Tamarac Theatre Of Performing Arts through May 5, 2013.


for kids...

Showtime Performing Arts presents Mulan through May 4.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello Everyone, it's Andie Arthur, Executive Director of the South Florida Theatre League with Off Stage Conversations, where I take a look at articles and ideas of interest in the national and international theatre community.

Last week, I was at the APASO conference, which was focused on innovation. It started a lot of conversations that I hope to continue having with folks in our community and has shaped what links I'm sharing today.

Arts Reformation

Ben Cameron of the Doris Duke Foundation and formerly of TCG, who is often called to speak arts events was one of the APASO speakers. Eventually, his speech at APASO will be available for me to share directly, but he did share one idea that he's spoken of in the past -- the idea that we are in the middle of an arts reformation. In the Protestant Reformation where people realized that they didn't need a priest to have a spiritual experience; with the arts reformation people are realizing that they don't need a traditional arts organization to have a creative experience.
But in a world of arts participation—a time in which participation is growing while traditional attendance is declining, and in which technology has democratized the means of both artistic production and artistic distribution for the first time in human history—how do we recognize the impulses and expectations that the internet promotes-expectation of transparency and participation, of personalization and customization? How do we think, not only about presentation, but about engagement—about interacting with this growing tsunami of creative energy that typically exists beyond the purview of our classrooms, our buildings and our performing arts centers? How do we engage audiences in the creative process, not merely in the finished work?
The Way We Look at Charity is Dead Wrong

Dan Pallotta's TED Talk discusses that what we value in charities are the wrong values -- we focus so much on low overhead, low salaries for non-profit employees, and limited marketing -- instead of focusing on how charities serve their mission. Pallotta specifically talks about how those in charities and non-profits are demonized for using for-profit marketing tactics and budgets, and how that undermines the industry.

Austin, TX

HowlRound is currently doing a series on Austin, TX. I've informally said to my board and to some others that I think Austin is a model we should look at -- like us, Austin is a community of primarily small and mid-sized organizations, and lacks a major regional theatre. Therefore, it makes sense to take a look at what we can learn from Austin.
My two favorite pieces so far is Travis Bedard's piece on how Austin isn't a theatre town, it's a maker town and the Rude Mech's piece on why they're lucky to be in Austin and how inspirational their audiences are.

Nifty Thing if You're Free Tomorrow

The Dramatists Guild and Howl Round are hosting a live webcast seminar with John Weidman on bookwriting for musicals, on April 18th starting at 6PM EST.

Community Storage and Space

The LA Stage Alliance is opening their own collective storage space. If you've ever talked with me or Margaret Ledford or Ann Kelly -- this is a big dream for the South Florida Theatre League. And we're going to talk with the folks in LA on how they made it happen.

Why Aren't Women Equals in Music Leadership and Innovation

Ellen McSweeney's article discusses why women aren't in the forefront of the music world, but her observations equally apply to our industry as well.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Slow Burn Theatre: Sweeney Todd (3 reviews)

Slow Burn Theatre Company opened its production of Sweeney Todd at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater on April 12, 2013.
The rare instance of a musical thriller, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s chilling, suspenseful, heart-pounding masterpiece of murderous barber-ism and culinary crime tells the infamous tale of the unjustly exiled barber who returns to 19th century London seeking revenge against the lecherous judge who framed him and ravaged his young wife. His thirst for blood soon expands to include his unfortunate customers, and the resourceful proprietress of the pie shop downstairs soon has the people of London lining up in droves with her mysterious new meat pie recipe!
Patrick Fitzwater directed a cast that included Matthew Korinko, Karen Chandler, Christian Vandepas, Kaela Antolino, Bruno Vida, Shawn Wayne King, Sean Dorazio, Ann Marie Olson, Rick Pena, Kaitlyn O’Neill, Courtney Poston, Daniella Newton, Rick Hvizdak, Christopher Mitchell and Michael Smith.

Hap Erstein weighed in for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
It was probably inevitable that Slow Burn’s resident director-choreographer Patrick Fitzwater would produce Sweeney Todd, and he delivers it with all of the show’s full-throttle intensity, even if it is arguably the most mainstream musical from the non-union, low-budget, but wildly talented troupe.

He did not have to go far to find his Sweeney, the unjustly convicted barber who returns to London after serving time in Australia, obsessed with revenge against the crooked, lecherous Judge Turpin. Here he is played by co-artistic director Matthew Korinko, a strong brooding presence in good, deep voice, giving his best Slow Burn performance yet.
The entire score ― and Slow Burn performs the entire score, including a couple of numbers often excised for time or taste ― is rendered deftly by conductor-keyboardist Manny Schvartzman and his six-man band.
The Broadway Sweeney Todd and all subsequent productions had minimal choreography, but Fitzwater has found ways to inject a bit more into the show with the music hall ensemble. Without shortchanging the show’s macabre aspects, this is an audience-friendly take on the material, and one more reason why you really need to head to far west Boca and get to know Slow Burn Theatre Company
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
So much is right about Slow Burn Theatre Company’s scaling of that Everest of musical theater, Sweeney Todd, that there’s no shame to acknowledge that it’s a competent not a transporting production.
So many aspects of Slow Burn’s rendition work so well under the leadership of director Patrick Fitzwater that it’s difficult to pinpoint where it falls short. It’s missing the ambiance of a corrupt dog-eat-dog society perverted by a menacing evil. Almost everyone on stage lacks that deeply-buried dementia that makes you fear that blood could be shed at any moment. There is a sense of rage – certainly in Matthew Korinko’s Sweeney – but no sense that he or anyone else might suddenly come unhinged to snap the neck of a songbird or slit your throat.
That said, celebrate virtues like the freshness that Korinko and Karen Chandler’s Mrs. Lovett bring to the glorious English music hall pun-fest “A Little Priest.” Working with Fitzwater, they sidestep earlier incarnations of this waltz of Brechtian pragmatism and therefore make it a real scene of musical theater...
Or savor Korinko and Shawn Wayne King as the venal judge singing a soaring duet literally on the razor’s edge of bloody murder in “Pretty Women.”

Or enjoy how Fitzwater has deftly infused choreography (for the first time we’ve ever seen) in appropriate places such as a busker-inspired outburst among the customers in the second-act opener “God, That’s Good.”

And be grateful that Slow Burn has once again cast a cadre of darn good non-Equity singers and band musicians who do justice most of the time to Sondheim’s log flume ride of changes in tempi, meter, keys and his brilliant but sadistically difficult lyrics, thanks to the musical direction of Manny Schvartzman.
... for a show that’s being mounted literally 50 times around the world over the next four months, Sweeney is almost never done in South Florida. It may have been done by Florida Atlantic University and Pembroke Pines Theater of the Performing Arts, but that’s about it. So honor Slow Burn, who also did Sondheim’s Assassins, for resurrecting Sweeney from his grave with passion and commitment.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Since its birth with Bat Boy in 2010, Slow Burn Theatre has been quick to embrace some of musical theater’s most challenging works. Its second show, for instance, was Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, and in 2012 the company returned to Sondheim’s influential body of work for a production of Into the Woods. But those two were mere warm-ups for Slow Burn’s new production of Sweeney Todd
Director-choreographer Patrick Fitzwater has a key asset in his fellow Slow Burn founder and co-artistic director, Matthew Korinko.

A strong actor with a supple baritone voice, Korinko often plays leads in Slow Burn shows, but that’s not favoritism at work — it’s talent. More than once, Korinko has been the standard-setter in Slow Burn productions, and so it is with Sweeney Todd. The actor plays the mad, tragic, vengeful barber with a mixture of fury and, when needed, a forced charm to disarm his soon-to-be victims. The way he lays out the reason for his character’s descent into madness, singing The Barber and His Wife, is haunting. 
As Sweeney’s landlady, cohort and would-be Mrs., Karen Chandler doesn’t rise to Korinko’s level. She gets the crazy-funny part — after all, it’s Mrs. Lovett who dreams up the utilitarian idea of using Sweeney’s victims as filling for her substandard meat pies — but her voice is somewhat strident, except when she’s crooning Not While I’m Around to her slow but dangerous young helper... 
...Vandepas has trouble with that difficult vocal leap at the beginning of Johanna, but he plays the smitten suitor well, and Antolino is a persuasive damsel in distress.

Ann Marie Olson as the mysterious, crazy Beggar Woman greatly enriches the show’s vocal palette. Sean Dorazio as Judge Turpin’s equally corrupt Beadle, Rick Peña as Sweeney’s rival Pirelli, the steampunk-style ensemble — Kaitlyn O’Neill, Courtney Poston, Daniella Newton, Rick Hvizdak, Christopher Mitchell and Michael Smith — and the principal actors make the opening and closing Ballad of Sweeney Todd a thunderous, chilling summation of the doom we witness. 
 All told, Sweeney Todd, which runs just one more weekend, is another impressive effort from Slow Burn.
Editor's note:
We were sent a link to a psuedo-review in the South Florida Gay News, but determined that it was too amateurish an effort to include in our round-up.  Polling the audience is no way to structure a proper review; we expect the critic to use their own standards, not those of random people standing around them.Write the review, and let the random people comment on it.

The Slow Burn Theatre Company  production of Sweeney Todd plays at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater through April 21, 2013.

Mondays are Dark

Well, we've run out of "dark" theater photos, so we're back to the generics, at least for now.

We got up to see Exit the King over the weekend - excellent production, excellent cast.  If you haven't been, be sure to go.

Now here's your Monday reading list for this (occasionally) rainy April Monday.

One on One with One Man Show Director
The Examiner chats with Skye Whitcomb, co-founder of Outré Theatre Company, and director of its current production of An Iliad, starring Avi Hoffman.

Speaking of One Man
Florida Theater On Stage reports that this Thursday at Palm Beach Dramaworks, Colin McPhillamy will read from the book he wrote about his experiences directing and producing Western theatre in China, and bring Chinese theatre to London. McPhillamy is currently appearing in Dramawork's Exit the King.

Speaking of Reading
BroadwayWorld informs us that Michael McKeever's Finding Mona Lisa will be read by an all-star cast directed by Michael Leeds at Lynn University next week.

From the "Oops, We Meant To Include That" Department
We meant to include this last week: The Drama Queen fills us in on CityWrights, the gathering of playwrights hosted by City Theatre.

Mad Cat Blows into SoBe
Florida Theater On Stage tells us about Charming Acts of Misery, Mad Cat Theatre Company's contribution to the South Beach Comedy Festival.  It's a dark comedy about Isabella Blow, described as an "editor, consultant and fashion icon."
 Blow was a major figure from the mid-1980s to her death in 2007, much of it as a journalist for the British Tatler, Sunday Times Style and the American edition of Vogue. Besides buying McQueen’s first graduate school collection, she championed milliner Philip Treacy, discovered supermodels Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant, and counted among her friends Rupert Everett, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
They'll be playing at 7pm and 9:30 pm on April 17 only, in a space described as "backstage at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theatre."  Jessica Farr wrote the piece, and Paul Tei directs a cast that includes Erin Joy Schmidt, Gregg Weiner, and Yevgenia Katz.

Gnit Picking
Palm Beach ArtsPaper went to the Humana Festival, America's best showcase of new plays.

Put Down Those Reading Glasses
OK, it's not something you can read, but Bill Hirschman interviewed the co-founders of Slow Burn Theater for Arts One Radio.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Zoetic Stage: The Savannah Disputation (reviews)

.Zoetic Stage opened its production of Evan Smith's The Savannah Disputation at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on April 11, 2013.
The Savannah Disputation is a heaven-sent comedy drenched in southern charm, infused with a pinch of hellfire and a dollop of damnation. Two daffy Catholic sisters find themselves in a verbal smack down with a door-to-door evangelist in their own home. Crackling with wit and brimming with emotion, what unfolds is an up-to-the-minute comedy about organized religion, faith and morals in the not-so-United States.
Stuart Meltzer directed a cast that featured Lindsey Forgey, Laura Turnbull, Barbara Bradshaw, and John Felix.

Bill Hirschman
reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
That Zoetic succeeds in producing an entertaining evening doesn’t paper over the fact that the script becomes intellectually fuzzy and slowly disintegrates over the last third of the show, ironic since Smith attempts to delve more deeply into issues. Credit the first-rate cast and Meltzer for nimbly and persuasively negotiating Smith’s wild tonal changes from farce to domestic strife to pathos and back again that would otherwise seem like at least two if not three different plays.
The headline here should be Forgey... Many of her characterizations are similar – a slightly daffy, not terribly sophisticated, but undeniably earnest young woman. But within what she is being cast in, she is honing her comic timing to a keen edge. Further, Forgey somehow manages to keep Melissa from being completely obnoxious despite her genial arrogance.
Whatever the female equivalent of dean is, Bradshaw is the undisputed dean-ess of South Florida actresses. So it goes without saying that she adds another well-executed portrait to her gallery. She, more than anyone, is battling Smith’s cartoonish characterization... The few times that Smith gives her some meat, Bradshaw makes the most of it.
Turnbull long ago proved herself one of the region’s finest actresses. But Smith has only given her two colors to play with – timidity and drabness – and neither she nor Meltzer has gone much beyond that.

Felix gives the most nuanced performance because his character is so level-headed and even-tempered despite Melissa’s outrageous declarations and Mary’s egging on.
This all take place in Jodi Dellaventura’s note-perfect set... Dellaventura has made an enviable reputation working for several smaller theaters in the region... Like her work on Brothers Beckett at the Arsht this spring, this design reaffirms her as a talent to be encouraged.
Mention is also due Luke Klingberg’s subtle lighting shifts and Alberto Arroyo’s dead on costuming. A special nod is needed for Meltzer’s sound design... he has what must be an encyclopedic Ipod of offbeat but perfectly
appropriate music to accompany scene changes for all of his shows. 
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...the acting, direction and production values are all of the high quality
that helped Zoetic win a trio of Carbonell Awards earlier this month
(though a couple of the performers distractingly botched character names
on opening night). But the play itself could use a dramaturg, a rewrite
or both.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/13/3342063/faith-is-a-battleground-in-savannah.html#storylink=cpy
What makes The Savannah Disputation watchable for its two-hour, intermission-free running time are unexpected bits of wit (Meltzer, doubling as sound designer, gives us a country version of the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil), the lived-in and just-right look of set designer Jodi Dellaventura’s version of the sisters’ home, and (those blown names notwithstanding) the actors’ strong work.

Bradshaw gets the juiciest role, playing the domineering and mean-spirited Mary for laughs until it’s time to burrow down to the reasons for her behavior, which the actress does with moving power. Though Turnbull is stuck in a part with less potential, she burnishes mousy Margaret with subtle comic touches as she communicates unwavering sweetness and loyalty. Felix gets to display Father Murphy’s laid-back, intellectual and judgmental qualities, and he navigates all of them convincingly. Forgey plays Melissa as earnest but flawed, a luminous gal whose Jesus-loves-you platitudes eventually give way to her ugly hellfire take on Catholicism.
John Thomason reviewed for The Miami New Times:
...Evan Smith's The Savannah Disputation is a holy war in microcosm - an acerbic verbal brawl on a single suburban property, currently receiving an exceptional production from Zoetic Stage at the Arsht Center.
Director Stuart Meltzer cast a complex and perfectly believable foursome; nobody's a rube, they're all admirable in one way or another, and they become harder to pigeonhole as the play progresses.
Bradshaw brings a righteous ferocity to her Mary... It's a domineering, scenery-chewing part, but I'd be happy to see Bradshaw digest an entire set.
Turnbull's monochrome Margaret is something else entirely, in a wholly different role than anything I've ever seen from her. She slavishly trudges through the house with the stooped posture of a battered wife, burying her emotions in a contained, sad performance of calibrated poise. It's difficult to remain compelling while invisibly bleeding into the background, but Turnbull accomplishes this in her heartbreaking words and movements.
But the fact is, this is Lindsey Forgey's moment. Stealing a show from Bradshaw and Turnbull is akin to stealing gold from Fort Knox, but Forgey.. pulls it off in a genuine star-making turn... Smith's words never sound funnier than when Forgey is speaking them.
Meltzer, a gifted director of comedies, contributes some wry and funny choices to break up the inherent talkiness of Smith's intermission-free, somewhat static material.
Zoetic Stage presents its production of Evan Smith's The Savannah Disputation at the Arsht Center through April 18, 2013.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Scene for April 12, 2013

It's starting to feel like Florida again, as the mercury creeps higher, along with the humidity.

And the air outside isn't the only thing heating up; more great shows opening across South Florida this weekend.  Comedies, dramas, musicals - something for every taste and age range.

It's literally A-Z in Miami, with Arsht hosting Zoetic Stage's latest production.


Here's what's playing on The Scene this weekend:
.

opening...

Zoetic Stage opens The Savannah Disputation at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts this weekend.

Slow Burn Theatre Company opens Sweeny Todd at the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre, through April 21. Be careful clicking that link at the office; some rat bastard stuck music to the page.

Stage Door Theatre Company opens Jeffrey at the Byron Carlisle Theater in Miami Beach, through May 5.  But it looks like someone hacked their Miami website.  Ooops.


you still haven't missed...

Outré Theatre Company presents An Iliad at The Black Box Studio at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center through April 21, 2013.

The M Ensemble presents It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through April 21, 2013

Palm Beach Dramaworks presents Exit The King through April 28, 2013.

Broward Stage Door offers Beau Jest through April 28.

Fresh Theater Project presents Joe and Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts through May 5th.

Waist Watchers the Musical has been packing them in at The Plaza Theatre - it's been extended through May 12!

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.


coming and going...

The Addams Family is altogether ookie at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through April 21.


last chance to see...

4000 Miles wraps up its run at GableStage on Aprll 14, 2013

Theatre at Arts Garage closes Lungs this Sunday, April 14, 2013.

New Theatre's extended run of  Bird In The Hand winds it up on Sunday, April 14th.

My Son The Waiter
closes at Broward Stage Door this Sunday.

If you find yourself in Key West, The Waterfront Playhouse's American premiere of Typhoon Judy ends Saturday.


community and conservatory...

Pembroke Pines Theater of the Performing Arts offers You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown through April 14.

New World School of the Arts present the New Playwrights’ Festival through Sunday.

Area Stage Company offers An Evening Of One Act Plays through April 21.

South Pacific plays UM's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre through April 27.

Florida Atlantic University
stages the classic Lysistrata, through April 27.

Lake Worth Playhouse presents Barnum through April 28.

Over The River and Through the Woods plays at the Tamarac Theatre Of Performing Arts through May 5, 2013.


for kids...

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie & Other Short Stories plays this Saturday at the Miniaci Performing Arts Center at Nova Southeastern University.

Aladdin and the Magic Lamp plays Sunday only at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center.

Showtime Performing Arts presents Mulan through May 4.

Flash is for Pans (and Cameras)

Here's why we criticize pages done in Flash:






This isn't the kind of thing you want your patrons to find instead of your website.

FLASH=BAD



Off Stage Conversations

Hello, this is Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, with Off Stage Conversations, where I share articles and blog posts of interest from the national and international theatre community.

The Tempest -- Not Just for Adults

Richmond Shakespeare Company is mounting two versions of the Tempest with the same cast and set -- one for adults and one 30 minute shorter version aimed at children.

Some Much Needed Silliness

What Should the Box Office Call Me is a tumblr that has brought me a great deal of giggles this week. There should be a blog like this for every entry level theatre staff position.

The Future of Criticism

The big news going around this week is that BackStage decided to stop publishing theatre reviews as they weren't getting enough click-throughs. This happened in the middle of HowlRound's blog series on criticism, and caused a lot of reflection on the role of the critic in modern journalism and theatre. My favorite piece of HowlRound's series was Wedny Rosenfield's blog calling for more conversation between critics and artists:
And yet criticism, which by now should have evolved from a one-sided conversation (and we critics all know colleagues who are so accustomed to spouting opinions unchallenged that every “conversation” becomes a monologue) to a full-fledged back-and-forth between audience and critic, still drags its knuckles. Over in the online sports section of my particular newspaper, the threads are lively, angry, and impassioned. In the political and local sections, they’re horrific cesspools of blatant racism and sexism that continue for pages. But here on the performing arts page, save for the occasional response from someone associated with a production that received a negative review, they’re empty.
Thoughts on Collaboration

This is about a year old, but it was new to me. Rude Mech's artistic director Kirk Lynn shares his thoughts on collaboration.

Marketing Lessons you can learn from Kittens

Kris Prusynski talks about the Foster Kitten Cam and what marketers could learn from it. I think the biggest take away here is that things don't go viral because you want them to, things go viral because they fill a need in someone's lives. How does the theatre you make serve the needs of your community and how are you letting people know that?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mondays are Dark

Today's "dark" theater is the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center.  This intimate three year old venue is tucked away along the waterfront in Aventura.  The 326 seat theater is managed by The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and has hosted off-Broadway plays such as Jim Brocchu's Zero Hour.  And it has the best view from its green room of any theater in South Florida, bar none.

As you sort through your Monday reading list, the reason for its inclusion today will be revealed.

Enjoy!

Up Close at the Arsht
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts has announced its line for next year's Theater Up Close program.  This year's line up included Chicago's House Theater, resident company Zoetic Stage's season, and Alliance Theatre Lab's Brothers Beckett re-mount.

Florida Theater On Stage sums up the Arsht's program best:
Theater Up Close is a rarity in South Florida – an ongoing cooperative effort between a major facility focused primarily on presenting visiting productions and mostly local companies that otherwise would not have access to such sophisticated resources.
Of course, The Miami Herald also takes a look at next season's program line-up:
“All of the shows center on the same theme,” says Scott Shiller, the Arsht’s executive vice president and the driving force behind the series. “It’s the theme of history and mythology, and the thin line between them. Our histories change, depending on who’s telling the story.”
Of course, The House Theater, the UM Theater Department, and Zoetic Stage are all back on board.

Speaking of Partnerships
The Aventura Arts and Cultural Center has worked an arrangement with Slow Burn Theatre Company to bring its shows to Aventura once they close in West Boca Raton.  The Drama Queen broke the story:
In rehearsal for their April 12-21 of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (their third Sondheim, after 2010's Assassins and 2012's Into the Woods), Fitzwater and Korinko are unveiling their first expansion plans.  Next season, two of their productions will open in West Boca, then play the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center.

The risk-taking Slow Burn hasn't been eligible for South Florida theater's highest honor so far.  That's not because of the quality of the company's work (the region's critics have been and continue to be impressed) but because the founding duo's fiscally conservative strategy means their shows don't run long enough to be given consideration. With the additional Aventura performances, that may change, at least for Next to Normal and Chess.
Florida Theater On Stage weighed in on the announcement:
Slow Burn’s founders have been very careful during its three seasons not to overextend itself financially, especially in scheduling only two weekends to ensure  that ticket sales could support the run... So to extend the run to another county for a third weekend is a major step in its growth.

One encouraging sign of Slow Burn’s success is that the size of its audiences in the cavernous theater inside a high school has steadily grown show after show due to rapturous reviews and word of mouth about the quality of the work.
Dramaworks Comes Through
The Shiny Sheet reports that Palm Beach Dramaworks managed to raise $18,000 for The Actors' Fund during Dramaworks' run of A Raisin In The Sun, racking up another noteworthy accomplishment for the company:
Broadway shows and tours routinely add a performance to their runs to benefit the fund. But Dramaworks is the first regional theater to mount a sustained drive. Producing Artistic Director William Hayes and Managing Director Sue Ellen Beryl signed on as national ambassadors to spread the word about the organization’s services and raise money.
Kudos!

Speaking of Dramaworks...
Florida Theater On Stage reports that they've announced their next season.  Among the offerings: The Lion In Winter

While the last regional production was at Caldwell in 2007, the play was staged on the Dramaworks' site in 1981.  The Stage Company production was directed by Joe Conaway, and starred David Holliday, Ruth Clark-Everitt, David Haller, Tom Nowicki, Rob Ferguson, Carol Clark, and Mitch Danilo Susnar.

The Stars Came Out
BroadwayWorld notes that Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of In The Heights, was due to see the show this weekend at Actors' Playhouse.  But they missed the fact the cast of The Glades came out; Matt Passmore, Carlos Gomez, Michelle Hurd, and guest star Corbin Bernsen were there, as was Judge Marilyn Milian of The People's Court.

Photo shamelessly swiped from Actors' Playhouse Facebook Page

It's no mystery to us why the TV folk were there; The Glades employs a larger number of South Florida actors, some of whom were in In The Heights. It's only natural to see what your co-workers are up to. Oh, and it was an excellent production.  We know that cast members of Burn Notice also show up at local theaters from time to time. 

So see a play, and you may see a star.  We're getting to be that kind of a theatre scene.

Speaking of Judges
While Judge Milian is a judge who plays a judge on TV, The Miami Herald tells us about a Judge who performs in musicals on the stage.  You missed his honor William Altfield in Miami Acting Company's Man of La Mancha, but keep an eye out; he'll be back on the boards again.

Not Dead Yet
Florida Theater On Stage reports that the American Theater Critics Association honored some plays over the weekend.
Hirschman said this year’s entries validated the future of a vibrant 21st Century theater. “Despite renewed concerns about the prognosis for theater as a relevant and popularly embraced art form, the stunning array and high quality of scripts we read confirmed the enduring commitment of regional theaters and a dazzling diversity of playwrights to be the primary standard-bearers for new works,” he said. “Far from disconnected and elitist, the plays reflected themes and settings ranging from the economic challenges faced by real people in this country to the moral questions created by American involvement on the world stage.”
So it looks like theater will be with us awhile longer.  Whew.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Over One Million Served

We missed the actual moment it happened, but at some point in the last week, Google reports that The South Florida Theatre Scene had its one millionth page view.

We noticed it this Sunday afternoon, while compiling your Monday reading list:




To be honest, this is only one million or so since Google started keeping statistics, which only started in June 2008, a year after The Scene went online.  So the number is actually a teensy weensy bit higher.  But we're grateful for your readership and support.

And speaking of milestones, we'd like to congratulate Carl Waisanen on complete his one hundredth production as Stage Manager for Actors' Playhouse.  What he did was waaaaay harder.


The M Ensemble: It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues (reviews)

The M Ensemble opened its production of It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse on April 4, 2013.
This sizzling revue of the blues and blues infused songs that changed the way the world hears the human heartbeat took New York by storm. Ravishing songs trace the evolution of the blues from Africa to Mississippi to Memphis to Chicago.
Jerry Maple directed a cast that featured Christina Alexander, Paulette Dozier, Valerie Woods, Reginald Everson, Don Sewards, and John Williams. Choreography by Keith Wilson.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...in M Ensemble’s new production of Blues at the Lightbox at Goldman Warehouse, the history of the form comes in a distant second -- way distant -- to simply hearing that music delivered by six strong singers and a driving, soulful five-piece band.
Each of the six actor-singers gets a showcase number (or two or three), and all are strong soloists whose voices also blend into a mighty ensemble.
Christina Alexander brings a sweet and sultry flavor to My Man Rocks Me and Now I’m Gonna Be Bad. Paulette Dozier, who has done an entire show playing Billie Holiday... delivers a haunting rendition of the singer’s Strange Fruit and wrings every ounce of double entendre out of Someone Else Is Steppin’ In.
Don Seward raises temperatures in a duet with Alexander on Fever.... John Williams proclaims himself a Blues Man, then later turns fiery on The Thrill Is Gone. Reginald Everson, decked out in a zoot suit, promises his version of sexy good times as he sings I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man.
...dancer-choreographer Keith Wilson and dancer Susan Josue thread modern dance movement throughout the show. The two are talented but at times seem stylistically at odds with a piece built around the blues.

In terms of structure and design, M Ensemble’s production has its flaws. Four songs from the second act are shoved into the first ( Strange Fruit seems particularly oddly placed). Set designer Gregory Contreras and scenic designer Dung Truong make the club set work in the black-box space, but the simplistic church backdrop looks cheap. Costumer Samuel Linn Davis coordinates looks for the different environments, but some of the clothes are stylistically dated (not in a way that serves the show) or strange (Alexander’s yellow “shawl,” which is actually a piece of unraveling fabric, comes to mind).

Still, if you take the show’s title as advice and focus on the songs, It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues supplies the come-ons, the heartbreak and the cathartic uplift of a special kind of music.
The M Ensemble presents It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through April 21, 2013

Outré Theatre Company: An Iliad (4 reviews)

The Outré Theatre Company opened its production of An Iliad at The Black Box Studio at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center on April 5, 2013.
Outré Theatre Company is proud to announce its sophomore production, Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson’s Obie Award-winning one-man show An Iliad, starring Avi Hoffman. Returning Homer’s classic to where it originated – the words of the Poet, speaking directly to an audience – An Iliad brings alive the struggle between Achilles and Hector, the battle and fall of Troy, and the beautiful woman who caused it all.
Skye Whitcomb directed Avi Hoffman in this one-man production, with assistance from Sabrina Lynn Gore.

Hap Erstein weighed in for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
As staged by Outré’s artistic director Skye Whitcomb, An Iliad is anything but a static exercise. Hoffman wanders the stage, up, over and around Sean McClelland’s cluttered, war-torn ramparts set. At 100 intermission-less minutes, the play is a physical workout for the actor as well as a verbal one, including a sequence in which he sprints laps around the treacherously tiered environment. 
The matinee I was at was very sparsely attended. Hoffman still gave a performance of impressive ferocity...
Outré and Hoffman both demonstrated what they are capable of. Those who miss it do so at their own peril. They would be missing a worthy new work, a new theater company deserving of attention and what will probably be one of the standout performances of the year.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Based on a translation by Robert Fagles, adapted by director Lisa Peterson and actor Denis O’Hare, An Iliad is a show that requires heroic effort and great versatility from its lone performer.
Avi Hoffman... gets the starring role in Outré’s An Iliad. The actor, who also has a recurring part on the Starz T.V. series Magic City as lawyer Sid Raskin, works hard under the guidance of Outré artistic director Skye Whitcomb to create the kind of richly textured performance necessary to keep an audience captivated throughout this dramatic meditation on the cost of war.

At times, Hoffman is quite engaging, even compelling during the play’s more intense or horrific moments. But his amiable persona and the way he works an audience sometimes blunt the force and dramatic potential of An Iliad. The way he evokes Achilles’ horse Xanthos, for example, is more Mr. Ed than Iliad. In other words, he’s playing a role that isn’t an entirely comfortable fit.
Slides projected periodically on the set’s back wall underscore the elegance of Troy before its destruction by the Greeks and, far more meaningfully, the predictable costs when nations resort to savage combat. Those images and the text point out that, though the way we fight has changed from Homer’s era to today, war’s tragic human toll is a constant.
John Thomas reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...a breathtaking solo show from Boca Raton’s Outre Theatre Company that exhumes Homer’s dramatization of the mythological Trojan War in terms we all can understand. There is colloquial language, modern-day references, video projection and audience interaction – even, occasionally, humor.
Adopting a dozen or so voices – for Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, Hermes, Patroclus, et al, as well his own, objective narrator – Hoffman elucidates Homer’s epic for us in propless but vivid details: a graphic novel come to life in our imagination, a Cliff’s Notes Iliad complete with analysis of the text. Part enthusiastic schoolteacher, part desperate messenger of mythological mayhem in a world overrun by real war, Hoffman’s performance oscillates between complete command of his historical subject and anguished aphasia, often breaking down from the sheer intensity of the harrowing scenes.
No solo show could rightfully be called “easy,” but this play is in another league, an impossibly demanding exercise in memorization and endurance, directed imaginatively by Skye Whitcomb. In a calorie-burning performance, Hoffman runs Sisyphean circles around the stage, bounds steps, balances on planks of wood, dodges invisible spears, pounces on his victims like a feral animal, and dies a couple of times. In the process, he runs an emotional gamut, exuding the joy of victory, the absurdity of war, the rage of revenge and the bloodshed of its result.
Hoffman’s work here is, in a word, flawless – the best I’ve seen him in my eight years as a theater critic.
If, like me, you were disappointed in Outre’s initial offering, The Wild Party, last fall, don’t miss this one; it marks this company’s emergence as a major player in the South Florida theater community.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
Hey boys and girls, moms and dads! Anyone want to be an actor? Lead a life of riches, glamor and excitement? Great, then scoot right on up to Boca Raton and watch Avi Hoffman in An Iliad. Ninety minutes in Outré Theatre with Avi and you'll learn it all.
This is a timeless piece, performed 3000 years ago and, in this version, still very much alive, vibrant and utterly intriguing. As Hoffman speaks, voice overs and sound fx delineate the battles old and new and videos flash upstage but nothing detracts from Hoffman's performance. It's a rare actor who can enthrall an audience with tales of endless violence and the utter stupidity of war, but Hoffman does this, not with ease but with his belief in himself and the characters into whom he disappears.
Well and imaginatively directed by Sky Whitcomb, An Iliad is a piece that requires attention but offers myriad rewards. It's a brave choice for a relatively new theatre, the artistic over the commercial, and it's a choice to be applauded. Well done, Avi Hoffman and Outré Theatre.
Outré Theatre Company presents An Iliad at The Black Box Studio at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center through April 21, 2013.