Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Scene for August 30, 2013

This is it - Labor Day Weekend.  The summer, for all practical intents and purposes, is over.  One play opening, a number of shows closing this weekend.  But we warn you, NEXT weekend is wall-to-wall openings.

The South Florida Theater League's entry in The Great Grove Bed Race will found at Shorts Gone Wild, presented by City Theatre and Island City Stage at Empire Stage.  Sounds more like "colloboration gone wild" to us.) Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
The race was originally set for Labor Day, but the organizers have moved it to November 3, instead. Probably so the runners can be fueled by leftover Halloween candy.  But it also gives you time to sign up as a bed runner.  Um, bed team.  Um.  To run with the bed.  Whatever.  Contact Andie Arthur a the South Florida Theatre League if you're interested in helping to run the bed.

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


opening...  

The Broward Stage Door Theatre opens Moon Over Buffalo this weekend, through October 6.  At least, several calendars claim that - we can't find it on their website.  So we called - it's on.  But come on, guys.  You have exactly ONE outlet to the world that you are in absolute control of.  If you're in business, act like it.  Sheesh.

last chance to see...
 
Mad Cat Theatre Company's original production of Blow Me winds up its much publicized run at the Miami Theater Center  on Sunday
Waistwatchers The Musical completes its return engagment at The Plaza Theatre through September 1, 2013.  And boy, does the Plaza's new website totally blow, or what?  They've now taken the title "worst theatre website in South Florida."  Congratulations!
 
The Island City Stage presentation of City Theater's Shorts Gone Wild at Empire Stage winds it up this weekend. And remember, tonight is your last chance to Get In Bed With The Arts until The Great Grove Bed Race.   

Remembering a Theatre Legend

Julie Harris passed away Saturday at the age of 87.  Many of us remember her numerous star turns on Broadway (she holds the record for Tony Award wins at 6, including one for Lifetime Achievement), or her occasional forays into film.

But it should be noted that her performances in film were always critically praised; if she isn't known as a Hollywood star, it's not that she couldn't hold her own; she most assuredly could.

She merely preferred to work on stage, and chose roles on Broadway over roles in films.

But Miss Harris has also graced South Florida stages many times, most recently at the late Coconut Grove Playhouse when she appeared in their 1995 production of Ladies in Retirement. But that was hardly her first time in South Florida.

Her good friend, director and actor Charles Nelson Reilly, was also a friend of Burt Reynolds, and Mr. Reilly directed many shows at what was then known as the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre.  In 1981, he was directing Arthur Miller's classic Death of a Salesman.  Of course, Miss Harris was cast Mrs. Loman, opposite Vincent Gardenia as Willy.  Interns from the theatre filled out the rest of the cast, and Kenneth Kay was selected to play Biff.
Death of a Salesman, Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater, 1981: l-r Julie Harris, Vincent Gardenia, James Nemec, and Kenneth Kay.



In 1999, Mr. Kay was involved with the then-still-thriving Caldwell Theatre Company, when the company decided to award Miss Harris with its Spotlight Award.  As he had basically launched his professional career with her, he was selected to make the introduction. 

He has graciously allowed the Theatre Scene to re-post his introduction from his Facebook page.
"Julie Harris: Spotlight Award"

How do you thank someone who has been instrumental in helping you build a home and create a life for yourself in the theatre? That’s what Julie Harris has done for me. I don’t mean she got me jobs or introduced me to entertainment bigwigs or sent me money when I was homeless and living in my old Chevy van. (Although, that could have helped I suppose.) Those are the ordinary ways of helping and anyone with connections or money can do that. But you must remember that there is nothing ordinary about Julie Harris in the theatre.

Miss Harris is extraordinary and what she did for me was even more so. And yet, at the time this was occurring I don’t believe she realized just how she was changing my life. It took me awhile to figure it out. But tonight, on the occasion of this Spotlight Award in her honor, I wanted to share with you why Miss Harris is so special to me.

Eighteen years ago (ed. Now 32 years!) I went to the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Florida to work as a theatre intern. The program was a year long, but I only needed three months to complete the degree requirements for an MFA in theatre, which was my priority at the time. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done. We called it Burt’s Boot Camp. Hundred hour weeks were the norm and days off were as rare as snow in Miami. While I was learning a lot, I wasn’t getting many acting opportunities and after three months I was ready leave.

A change in schedule changed my mind and ultimately changed my life. Arthur Miller’s great play, Death of a Salesman was chosen to replace another play because a certain star wasn’t available. We were told that Charles Nelson Reilly would direct and Vincent Gardenia and Julie Harris would star as Willie and Linda Loman. I was impressed, but the real carrot was the rumor that interns and apprentices would be seriously considered for the roles of the sons, Biff and Happy.

Well, Charles cast five apprentices in Salesman. I was cast as the eldest son, Biff and was completely convinced that Hollywood, California would be my next permanent address. So, with a head the size of a large, overripe watermelon I strolled into the rehearsal hall ready to rewrite dinner-theatre history. Instead, what I got was a lesson in humility and compassion and love and a real-life course in true theatre artistry.

I quickly realized that I was a midget in a room full of giants. I got neck pains from looking up just to see how far I had to go. But this is the remarkable thing. Neither Charles nor Vincent or Julie looked down to us. They kept looking ahead and if we were to see what they were seeing we had to grow up. Fast.

It was in that brief rehearsal period and during the 32 performances that followed that I came to appreciate and marvel at the vast reservoir of human kindness and talent that is Julie Harris.

She pulled us along in the wake of her artistry, without ever patronizing or scolding what I know now were some very awkward attempts at “good acting.” She was patient and kind and always encouraging. She allowed us to fail, but played the truth of each of those moments so that each failure somehow became a small success. And little by little we began to grow. Nurtured by her gifts, I began to believe - honestly - for the first time - that I could really do this theatre stuff. She taught us without ever saying it, that even if you are famous you still have to do the work. You have to pay attention. You have to listen to each other. You have to care about the work. Serve the play and you will be served. My mother confirmed the knowledge I was gaining by remarking to me after a matinee performance of Salesman, “I knew who you were on that stage, but I didn’t recognize you as my son.” Trust me, if you are an actor, that is a good thing.

And that is at the core of what I am trying mightily to say tonight. Once you’ve been there with someone like Miss Harris – and there is no one like her – you are changed. Forever. Eighteen years later her gifts to me are still paying dividends. I still have to stand on a box just to come up to her shoulders, but I am taller for having known her. For having played her son in play at a place Charles used to call, “A miracle at a truck stop.”

And so it was.
Now, all these years later, I get stand in what is now my permanent home, the theatre, and say thank you Julie Harris for giving me the keys the front door. 

May it always be so - for all of us.

Thank you, Julie. I love you.

Thank you, Ken, and thank you, Miss Harris; I never had the pleasure of meeting you, but obviously you have affected the world in which we live in many subtle and marvelous ways.  Rest in peace.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mondays are Dark

Mondays are actually not dark this summer; South Florida Theatre League member companies are hosting free readings of plays by playwrights who are also League members. Tonight,  the last reading of the series is David Sirois' Off Center of Nowhere at the Theatre at Arts Garage.

As you must know by now if you read The Scene, The South Florida Theatre League has built an entry for The Great Coconut Grove Bed Race; your final chance to see the bed this summer is this Thursday, August 29 at City Theatre and Island City Stage's Shorts Gone Wild at Empire Stage.

And with this, Summer is over, as far as theater is concerned.  Shows will continue, but the next openings will be the part of each theater's regular season.  Although to be fair, we've noticed that some of the small theatre companies don't follow the seasonal subscription, deferring to calender year subscriptions.  Weird, right?
Anyway, here's your Monday reading list:

Mad Cat Achieves Global Reach

Mad Cat Theater Company's Blow Me, an original biographical play about Isabelle Blow, has been playing to sold-out houses.  While the reviews have been generally positive if not glowing, the production has been getting a lot of attention from the fashion world.  And we do mean "world."

New York City's Fashionista is the hometown fashion source, and it's no surprise that the British fashion editor got the attention of The Telegraph or the UK edition of Vogue, but the story has also been picked up by Istanbul's 74Gazette, and Dubai's Style.com/Arabia. We can't remember the last time any local production recieved this much international notice.  Congrats to all involved!  And if you want to check out the play, call and get your tickets now - they've been selling out through a huge walk-up turnout.

Speaking of "Global"

The Wall Street Journal reminds us that many of our classic plays didn't originate in English speaking countries; which means that translators are more important to theatre than you may have realized.

Rumblings in The Grove
The Coconut Grove Playhouse remains high in the news; you can read about it in The Miami Herald, or Local10 has video including b-roll, and Florida Theater On Stage gives us its usual in-depth coverage.

The last lists all the liens against the property that must be dealt with:

Aries (GH Mortgage) is a developer who invested money with the Coconut Grove Playhouse Board years ago to erase some of the Playhouse’s debts in return for involvement in any attempt to build residential or commercial development on the property. It has described its interest in the past as being about $1.5 million. The company informed the county in May that it had referred the situation to its attorneys.

A blog called Not Now Silly has been looking into one of the principals of Aries, Gino Falsetto.

Aries Development is the name of the company and and Gino Falsetto is the name of the man who runs it. Falsetto is Canadian, not that I hold that against him because so am I. However, Falsetto left a string of bankrupt restaurants behind in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on which the Canadian taxpayers lost an estimated $1,000,000. And, of course, all the employees and vendors lost money. However, shortly afterwards Falsetto landed on his feet as one of Miami Real Estate's big wheelers and dealers.

Another website called Grandlifestyle.com lists saving the Playhouse on its agenda:

Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse- in Miami's Coconut Grove, once a highly acclaimed cultural institution now at the brink of collapse, which needs us citizens to step into the fray to save the Playhouse from real estate developers whose track record raises a red flag. Careful scrutiny of Gino Falsetto's dealings with the nonprofit's volunteer members of the board of directors is a must.

While the City of Miami has built up a sizable claim against the Playhouse (mostly fines for its poor appearance), Aries Development is the largest lien-holder against the property.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Scene for August 23, 2013

There was a time when Summer lasted from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Well, technically, it's always been from June 21 through September 21, but the break from school ran between those two holidays.  Well, most kids have are ending their first or second week back at school, and the Summer Theater Season is winding to a close.
The South Florida Theatre League member theatres have been hosting free readings of plays by playwrights who are League members all summer long.  This coming Monday, the reading series wraps up with David Sirois' Off Center of Nowhere at The Theatre at Arts Garage.

  The South Florida Theater League's entry in The Great Grove Bed Race will found at Sol Children's Theatre production of Sleeping Beauty.  If you do get in bed with the arts, we're not saying a beautiful prince will kiss you awake. But hey, it could happen.  
The bed's final appearance before the race will be next week at Shorts Gone Wild, presented by City Theatre and Island City Stage at Empire Stage.  Sounds more like "colloboration gone wild" to us.  )Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
The race was originally set for Labor Day, but the organizers have moved it to November 3, instead. Probably so the runners can be fueled by leftover Halloween candy.  But it also gives you time to sign up as a bed runner.  Um, bed team.  Um.  To run with the bed.  Whatever.
Here's what's playing on the scene this weekend.

you still haven't missed...   
 
Mad Cat Theatre Company opens its original production of Blow Me at the Miami Theater Center, through September 1.
Waistwatchers The Musical plays at The Plaza Theatre through September 1, 2013.
  
Island City Stage presents City Theater's Shorts Gone Wild at Empire Stage through September 1.
 

last chance to see...
 
Slava's Snowshow winds up its run at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts this Sunday, August 25.
 

for kids...
  
Sol Children's Theatre Troupe offers Sleeping Beauty through August 25.

Mad Cat Theatre Company: Blow Me (reviews)

Mad Cat Theatre Company opened its production of Jessica Farr's Blow Me on August 16, 2013.
Blow Me is an unbridled take on the life of fashion icon, Isabella Blow. Blow was fashion editor at Tatler and Vogue, leaving an indelible mark on the fashion world, having discovered designers such as Alexander McQueen. Suffering from Bi-Polar disorder, Isabella attempted suicide 7 times before finally succeeding. In Blow Me, we follow Isabella down the rabbit hole as her life comes to an end, which is only just the beginning of the ride. Isabella retells her own story as only she could remember it, through spectacle.
Paul Tei directed a cast that included Emilie Paap, Jessica Farr, Noah Levine, Erin Joy Schmidt, Gregg Weiner, Matthew Glass, Karelle Levy, Veronica Soderman, Melissa Santiago Keenan, Paul Tei and Art Garcia.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Watching Blow wrestle with her past on the eve of her seventh and finally successful suicide attempt provides a cautionary tale in Mad Cat Theatre Company’s insightful, witty and thought-provoking world premiere of Jessica Farr’s Blow Me.
The play swirls around a bravura performance by the superb Erin Joy Schmidt. She creates a memorable portrait of a flamboyant 24/7 persona that was artificially constructed for a world of people seeking celebrity as self-validation.
The evening is not perfect. Farr intentionally spins the evening through space and time with no concern for chronology... Some scenes are wryly funny, but really don’t add to our understanding of Blow. Worse, Farr doesn’t make clear the roots of Blow’s fatal melancholy other than a rotten relationship with her parents and the professional betrayal of some of her friends.

But there’s no doubting the evolving talent of Farr... Her characters speak with that self-aware stylized language that we like to think in retrospect that we actually uttered. She also has a facility with long speeches in which luxurious language wafts gloriously like the smoke from that cigarette.
Tei, whose talent for making sense out of surrealism was evident in Naked Stage’s 4:48 Psychosis, is perfectly in sync. His characters walk up and down the white thrust stage as if it was a runway; characters speak over the audiences’ head from the dark corners of the tiny black box stage.
Supporting (Schmidt) is a clutch of chameleons playing a half-dozen roles each: Noah Levine as the supportive Treacy, Matthew Glass as the working class McQueen and her dead father, Greg Weiner as her husband Detmar, and Emilie Papp as her disapproving mother. Most of the time, the entire cast inject a truthfulness into even the most bizarre circumstances, except when Papp portrays a tabloid reporter whose speeches never land convincingly.
Costume designer Karelle Levy gleefully lets her imagination run wild within the confines of a limited budget... Her work is emblematic of the entire effort in which everyone, Schmidt especially, throws themselves unreservedly and courageously into a difficult tale about a troubled human being.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
Mad Cat’s latest effort, Blow Me, at the MTC Sandbox is a prime example of how they operate: Brilliant at times, not so at others. But always fun to watch.
...director Paul Tei has put actors on the stage who fascinate. Even if you don’t know exactly who the hell they’re supposed to be it’s a joy to watch them work. Erin Joy Schmidt as Isabella is on stage constantly. Her command of a deeply frustrated artist, depressed to the point of suicide (six attempts) is the glue that holds Blow Me to the floor.
Paul Tei not only zooms the piece along very nicely but also designed the set. A fashion runway with a bridal bower at one end. Imaginative props prevail. As do costume changes. Karelle Levy designed the many outfits. Matt Corey is the composer and sound designer and the lights are by Melissa Santiago Keenan.
John Thomason wrote for the Miami New Times:
In Mad Cat Theatre Company's new bio-play about late British fashion muse Isabella Blow, all the world's a stage, but not a very glamorous one.
In Farr's treatment, it's Blow's almost-famousness, her proximity to brilliance, more than her diagnoses of cancer and bipolar disorder that drove her to an early grave.
The story is freewheeling and unpredictable, and sound designer Matt Corey deserves a great deal of credit for instilling a sense of place to an unchanging set, creating the soft ambient samples that suggest studios, nightclubs, fashion shoots, rainstorms, magazine offices, Venetian canals, hospitals, and open fields.
Blow Me is a triumph above all, however, for Schmidt, who disappears fully and invisibly into Blow. Clothed in costume designer Karelle Levy's black bob wig, glittering gold dress, meretricious fur coat, and motley feathered hat, Schmidt imbues her character with sartorial beauty and a sense of deep-rooted insecurity. She explodes without a moment's notice and tears up just as instantly, with Schmidt bringing the humanity and pathos to a cerebral exercise that might otherwise hover an arm's length from emotional immersion. 
Weiner likewise expresses his versatility in multiple roles that showcase his comic timing. He plays Detmar like an effeminate, charmingly stiff statue that occasionally comes to life, while, as Blow's flippantly cruel boss at Tatler, he seems to be channeling the wry humor of Stephen Merchant. Add to these an hilarious cameo as a gondolier in Venice and you've got a hat trick of memorable support. Glass, who looks like McQueen's doppelganger, capably contributes four roles, while Levine and Papp perform their chameleonic yeomen's duties in an additional 11 parts.
The play exists in the bubble it satirizes: Characters are introduced with the full assumption that the audience knows everything about the 1990s oeuvre of Damien Hirsch or the controversy of Alexander McQueen's "Highland Rape" collection and is already well aware of the muse/creator relationship between Blow and Treacy. Theatergoers would be best suited to read up thoroughly on the biographies of Blow and her confidants, lest they find themselves as lost as a Harley rider at a Vogue pitch meeting.

Still, Farr can write. Her script is littered with potent quotables of tragicomic angst that ground the play's surrealist structure. When Blow looses a string of profanities against Detmar and receives a weary and reciprocated expression of love in return, Farr, Schmidt, and Weiner create a moment of profound truth that encapsulates the full spectrum of Issi's manic-depression.
Mad Cat Theatre Company presents Blow Me at The Miami Theatre Center through September 1, 2013.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mondays are Dark

Mondays are actually not dark this summer; South Florida Theatre League member companies are hosting free readings of plays by playwrights who are also League members. Tonight, Kutumba Theatre Project and Thinking Cap Theatre present a reading of The Happy Ones, by Kim Ehly, at the Galleria Studio Theater (which we're pretty sure is also the home of Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre).

As you must know by now if you read The Scene, The South Florida Theatre League has built an entry for The Great Coconut Grove Bed Race; your next chance to see it will be at Sol Children's Theatre performance of Sleeping Beauty this Thursday.

Anyway, here's your Monday reading list:

Movies at the Miracle
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater is hosting a series of movies in celebration of the The Miracle Theater's origins as a cinema, according to The Coconut Grove Grapevine, who must be tired of waiting for theatre to come back to the Grove.

Speaking of the Playhouse
Rachel Bay Jones is no stranger to Actors' Playhouse, having performed roles varying from glamorous Eva Peron in Evita to the crotchety Pennywise in Urinetown.  She's currently appearing in the Broadway revival of Pippin, and Playbill has posted a video of her interview with Broadway musical blogger Seth Rudetsky.

...But no Playhouse Here
WLRN tells how Hollywood is cultivating its own arts scene.  But that apparently doesn't include saving their Playhouse and getting theatre back into their local scene.  A few years ago, they boasted the Playhouse, as well as the Florida Playwrights Theater and the Hollywood Boulevard Theatre Company. 

...And This Playhouse is in Doubt
The Palm Beach Daily News reports that the council is getting impatient with the drawn out lease negotiations for The Royal Poinciana Playhouse between Sterling Palm Beach and prospective tenant The National Arts Institute .  And they are getting serious:
One possibility would be for the town to take over the Playhouse through eminent domain and have the recreation center “run it as a public theater and rent it out to other users,” Wildrick said. Eminent domain litigation would be expensive, but Sterling won’t get much money for the theater as its long vacancy has proven it has no value, he said.
This might actually be the best hope for saving the Playhouse.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Scene for August 16, 2013

 Summer is just zipping along.  We missed the opening of Shorts Gone Wild last week; just a general note, the best way to be included here is NOT to email us: we go to the listings at the South Florida Theatre League and Florida Theater On Stage, and our own calender (which needs serious updating).  But we don't always have a chance to dig through email.  GET LISTED.  There's no excuse for a Theater League company not to have its shows listed; you've already paid for the service.
 
The South Florida Theater League's entry in The Great Grove Bed Race will found at The Arts Garage. No, it's not getting a tune up, it's there for the performance of Beyond the Rainbow: Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall.

Speaking of the South Florida Theater League, they're holding Unified Auditions for its member companies this coming Monday, August 12.  Contact the league for details.

Monday, Theatre League member theatres are hosting free readings of plays by playwrights who are League members.  This coming Monday, Sol Children's Theatre hosts a reading of A Part of the Family, by Marla Schwartz.
 
Here's what's playing on the scene this weekend.

opening...   
 
Mad Cat Theatre Company opens its original production of Blow Me at the Miami Theater Center, through September 1.
 

you still haven't missed...   
 
Slava's Snowshow is cooling things down in a hot way at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through August 25.
 
Waistwatchers The Musical plays at The Plaza Theatre through September 1, 2013.
  
Island City Stage presents City Theater's Shorts Gone Wild at Empire Stage through September 1.
 

last chance to see...
 
The concert presentation of Company winds up its brief run at Palm Beach Dramaworks on August 18, 2013 - but they've added a 7pm show.
 
 Good People winds it up at Gablestage, this Sunday, August 18. 
 

community and conservatory... 
 
FIU's Alternative Theatre Festival continues with Glenngary Glen Ross Alumni Renunion, Friday and Saturday.

Storycrafter Studio offers its original production of Flesh and Blooders through August 11, 2013.
Main Street Players presents David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole through August 11, 2013.


for kids...
  
Sol Children's Theatre Troupe offers Sleeping Beauty through August 25.
Slava's Snowshow plays at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through August 25.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Palm Beach Dramaworks: Company (reviews)

Palm Beach Dramaworks opened its concert presentation of Stephen Sondheim's Company as the latest in its  Musical Theatre Masters Series on August 7, 2013.
Company (1970), which marked the beginning of the legendary artistic partnership between composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and director Harold Prince, is considered the first concept musical. Based on 11 one-act plays by George Furth, who adapted his material for the musical, Company consists of a series of vignettes in which a 35-year-old bachelor named Bobby observes and interacts with his married friends as he struggles to make a commitment. 
Clive Cholerton directed a cast that included Katherine Amadeo, Natalia Coego, Nick Duckart, Maribeth Graham, Alexandra Hale, Laura Hodos, Wayne LeGette, Leah Sessa, Barry Tarallo and Quinn VanAntwerp.

NOTE: some reviewers mentioned that some roles were cut from the original staging: Florida Theater On Stage reports that the script has been restored at the request of the  licensing agent.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...the glowing joy and slight frustration suffusing Dramaworks-Cholerton’s third entry in its Musical Theatre Masters series, an unassailably well-crafted, well-performed, downright entertaining production of Stephen Sondheim’s Continental Divide of American theater, Company.

Cholerton and musical director Paul Reekie lead a generally terrific cast applying admirable skill, intelligence, wit and emotion to superb but challenging material. But as with Dramaworks’ equally fine Man of La Mancha last month, a dimension and a depth are missing. In this case, it’s the wrenching urban angst, the desperate loneliness carefully camouflaged and damped down under studied sophisticated miens.

But now having seen several of these staged concerts, including one of the new musicals this summer at the Theatre At Arts Garage, it is clear that the unavoidable culprit is simply limited rehearsal time
Cholerton and his talented troupe have used that time well. Scripts perch on music stands as a safety net, but the performers have it all pretty cold, allowing Cholerton to move them all over the stage, even adding some minimal choreography.
... the audience can savor Laura Hodos’ unique “The Ladies Who Lunch” or Wayne LeGette’s warm caress of “Sorry-Grateful” or Alexandra Hale’s manic “Getting Married Today.”
As with La Mancha, which had a different musical director, a few ballads are played just a tad too fast, making it tough for the actors to work with the lyrics. Conversely, the difficult triple-paced patter songs, Hale’s “Getting Married Today” and Natalia Coego’s dead-on “Another Hundred People” seemed just right both in pacing and in the impossible task of enunciating the pretzel lyrics.
All are especially deft with comedy such as Maribeth Graham and LeGette’s competitive couple who know exactly where to slide in the knife and how to salve the wounds with love afterward. Hale, whose day job is as a marketing associate at Florida Repertory Theatre in Fort Myers, should be welcomed back anytime she wants and she gets fine support from Nick Duckart as her patient fiancĂ©.  Hodos is, as always, delightful. Her Joanne isn’t as acerbic as her predecessors, but she brings a different and valid vibe to the “Ladies Who Lunch.” Barry J. Tarallo makes his love for his verbally dismissive wife perfectly credible.  The trio of girlfriends are also up to the task: Katherine Amadeo’s “just friends” Kathy, Leah Sessa’s flighty stewardess April and Coego’s young woman passionately in love with New York City.

VanAntwerp is a competent hand – a veteran of three years on Jersey Boys – with a sweet open face and solid enough voice, but he makes the least impression. Bobby is a deceptively difficult role... VanAntwerp doesn’t have the chops yet to be able to summon that up in a week’s time.  
 ...as one of my favorite musicals of all time, I’m setting the bar almost absurdly high. This production is so solid that anyone who loves Sondheim should travel to West Palm Beach to entertain Company.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
The good news is a confident, polished concert of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, now playing through Sunday. The bad news? After this very satisfying evening and the previous, even better semi-staged Man of La Mancha, we may never see a fully produced musical at this West Palm Beach playhouse again.
Cholerton has a company of pros, including veterans of his previous concerts — Wayne LeGette, Nick Duckart, Leah Sessa and Laura Hodos — and a Broadway ringer (Quinn VanAntwerp of Jersey Boys) as Bobby. Also assets are two newcomers to Dramaworks, Alexandra Hale as panicky bride Amy and Natalia Coego as offbeat gypsy Marta.
...on balance, this is Company well worth keeping. It does not have a 16-piece orchestra either, but it does have musical director Paul J. Reekie on piano, so the score sounds fine. A fully staged production would be preferable, but with a show like Company, its many pleasures come through well enough in concert.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for Palm Beach Daily News:
Smart, biting and achingly human are all words that could describe Stephen Sondheim’s Company. The literate musical fares well in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ concert production.
As has been true throughout this series, Clive Cholerton’s direction mines the meanings behind the words and music, and infuses the show with life with artful stage movement and scene-setting projections.
Kudos to musical director and pianist Paul Reekie and the cast, especially in light of the production’s brief rehearsal time.

VanAntwerp’s Bobby is as charming and elusive as the script requires, though his voice wasn’t as at home in some of the songs as could be wished. Still, he fills Sondheim’s more emotional numbers, such as Marry Me a Little and Being Alive, with an intensity and honesty that’s difficult to resist.

Hodos brings bite and vocal assurance to the role of the much-married yet secretly insecure Joanne in the scathingly insightful The Little Things You Do Together and The Ladies Who Lunch. Other standouts include Hale, in the frenzied Getting Married Today; LeGette, hysterically urbane as Harry propositions Bobby; and Sessa as April, who’s so dumb she’s brilliant.
The concert presentation of Company plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through August 18, 2013.

Arsht Center: Slava's Snow Show (reviews)

Slava's Snow Show returned to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on July 31, 2013.
A cross between Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group, this entertainment phenomenon takes audiences on an alluring 90-minute journey that is “pure magic…an evening of enchantment and fun!” (The Express) The breathtaking show created by Slava, the original Cirque du Soleil’s clown genius, is an awesome theatrical experience and a profoundly moving spectacle full of vibrant wondrous images, delightful comedy, enchanting music and snow — lots and lots of snow.
Bill Hirschman pulled out his notes from five years ago to write his piece for Florida Theater On Stage:
Armed with smoke, spotlights, soap bubbles, plastic bubbles, confetti, wind machines, wacky costumes, a very loud and eclectic score (Claire de Lune to The Peter Gunn Theme), and a cast whose bodies bobble like cartoon characters, this all-too-brief production will delight entire families including young teens determined not to like anything.
Between the boundless imagination of these artists and their ingenuity in involving the entire audience directly inside the proceedings (we just can’t give you any spoilers), this is a thoroughly satisfying half-evening’s entertainment.
Mia Leonin wrote for The Miami Herald:
The real wonder is how it can rivet an audience like the one that filled the center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House Thursday night with the simplest human moments — a clown’s expressively waggling eyebrows or an ancient comic bit in which one person silently stalks another. Even in an era (and a show) of overwhelming multimedia, the human factor reigns supreme.
The show surrounds classic clown and mime set pieces — no less effective for being decades or even centuries old — with surreally beautiful, sometimes ominous, stage effects. Showers of paper snow fill the stage and the theater. Dreamlike moments — a glowing orange globe on a dark stage; a long-nosed, birdlike figure swinging through the air; towering, stage-framing blue panels rotating to turn it into a pillowy white and muffled world — are often followed by blasts of sound and light, wonder suddenly overwhelmed by dread.
The performers bring the show physically into the audience several times. To describe how would spoil the surprise that helps make these moments effective, even breathtaking. But the wild moments that end Snowshow had Thursday’s audience, from children to adults, playing and shrieking with delight.
Slava's Snow Show plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through August 25, 2013.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Is Not So Dark

Mondays are actually not dark this summer; Unified Auditions for its member companies today. Best of luck to everyone participating!

South Florida Theatre League member companies are hosting free readings of plays by playwrights who are also League members.  Tonight Sol Children's Theater will be staging a reading of A Part of the Family by Marla Schwartz
 
As you must know by now if you read The Scene, The South Florida Theatre League has built an entry for The Great Coconut Grove Bed Race; you'll have a chance to see it the opening of Blow Me this Thursday, Aug 15, 2013
at Mad Cat Theatre's first production at Miami Theater Center.


Anyway, here's your Monday reading list:


A Big Apple Opening
Playbill tells us that Avi Hoffman opened his Still Jewish After All These Years in New York City last week.

The Tables Turn
Patti Gardner decides it's time that Bill Hirschman gets the spotlight at Florida Theater On Stage.  She enlists some South Florida veterans of the stage in an ersatz interview.

We Always Wondered
Butts In Seats answers the question to which we're all dying to know the answer: when is it OK to punish your long-term patrons?

 It's About Time
ABC Nightly News reports that a Roxbury, Massachusetts princinpal has replaced security guards with arts teachers - with gratifying results.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Scene for August 9, 2013

Tick Tock, we're burning the summer up - the stores are full of Back to School specials.  I've been out of school for decades, and these sales still make me itch.
 
The South Florida Theater League's entry in The Great Grove Bed Race will found at The Arts Garage. No, it's not getting a tune up, it's there for the performance of Beyond the Rainbow: Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall.

Speaking of the South Florida Theater League, they're holding Unified Auditions for its member companies this coming Monday, August 12.  Contact the league for details.

Monday, Theatre League member theatres are hosting free readings of plays by playwrights who are League members.  This coming Monday, Sol Children's Theatre hosts a reading of A Part of the Family, by Marla Schwartz.
 
Here's what's playing on the scene this weekend.

opening...  
Palm Beach Dramaworks opens its concert version of Company; expect this to sell out quick - their La Mancha did, even after they added a week.
 

you still haven't missed...   
 
Slava's Snowshow is cooling things down in a hot way at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through August 25.
   
Good People plays at Gablestage, through August 18.  
 
The Theatre at Arts Garage offers Beyond the Rainbow through August 11. And for once, it's not a drag show.
 

last chance to see...
 
Actors' Playhouse production of the musical Rated P for Parenthood winds up its run at the Miracle Theater this Sunday, August 11.

Jim Brochu winds up his tour de force show Character Man at the Stage Door Theatre on Sunday, August 11.

 

community and conservatory... 
 
FIU's Alternative Theatre Festival continues with Glenngary Glen Ross Alumni Renunion, Friday and Saturday.

Storycrafter Studio offers its original production of Flesh and Blooders through August 11, 2013.
Main Street Players presents David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole through August 11, 2013.


for kids...
  
Sol Children's Theatre Troupe offers Sleeping Beauty through August 25.

Slava's Snowshow plays at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through August 25.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mondays are Dark

Mondays are actually not dark this summer; South Florida Theatre League member companies are hosting free readings of plays by playwrights who are also League members.  Tonight,it's another double-header: Naked Stage will be reading Christopher Demos-Brown's Fate Motif, while GableStage will be reading Choreographing a Rape Scene for a Feminist Play by Anne Gillespie.

As you must know by now if you read The Scene, The South Florida Theatre League has built an entry for The Great Coconut Grove Bed Race; you'll have a chance to see it the The Theatre at Arts Garage before their performance Beyond the Rainbow: Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall.


Speaking of the South Florida Theater League, they're holding Unified Auditions for its member companies on August 12.  Contact the league for details.

Anyway, here's your Monday reading list:


A Double-A Collaboration
Florida Theater On Stage reports that Arts Garage will be hosting a series of live radio plays by Arts Radio Network.
“From Orson Welles and the thrilling Mercury Theatre broadcasts of the 1930’s to Guy Noir and the hilarity of A Prairie Home Companion, the radio play has been one of America’s most beloved art forms,” wrote Artistic Director Lou Tyrrell. These shows provide “a nostalgic trip to the past with a modern twist."

Another Opening of Another Concert Version
Palm Beach Daily News reminds us that Company opens this Wednesday at Palm Beach Dramaworks.  If it's even half has good as their recent Man of La Mancha, it's going to be amazing.

What Price Art?
Butts In Seats discusses various pricing practices - it's largely a discussion about dynamic pricing - but the most important point is that patrons aren't looking for good prices, they are looking for good value.
The ultimate lesson is simple but not easy: “The customer never buys a product,” Drucker wrote. “The customer buys value.”
A few months ago, I was talking to a theater-goer about ticket discounts, and he quickly corrected me: "I don't want discounts, I want extras.  A free drink, complimentary parking, a seat upgrade - that's what I want."

He wanted additional value. What can you do to increase the value of your tickets for your patrons?

Kravis Announces its Season
The Palm Beach Daily News reminds us that we really need to find time to update our calender soon.  The Kravis Center announced its season with a new website on August 1.  Kravis on Broadway includes a few shows that we've seen before - War Horse, Sister Act, and Million Dollar Quartet have all toured through South Florida in the last couple of years, but Porgy and Bess hasn't been through as far as we can recall. 

Wanna Work Backstage?
The Miami Herald reports that the Sheridan Technical Center is offering a stagehand training course
The Stage Production program features basic instruction in various facets of work that goes on behind the scenes. Topics range from theater jargon to manipulating a forklift. The program is geared as workforce education for adult students, ages 18 and older.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/05/3543654/the-students-behind-the-curtain.html#storylink=cpy

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stage Door Theatre: Character Man (2 reviews)

Stage Door Theatre opened Jim Brochu's Character Man on July 12, 2013.
Carbonell and Drama Desk Award Winner Jim Brochu, who dazzled as Zero Mostel in Zero Hour puts his stamp on an original musical valentine to the Great White Way. Opening Off-Broadway in the fall, this tribute to Broadway’s greatest character actors features the songs they introduced to musical theatre. Sprinkled with juicy backstage lore and and a first hand look at these great faces of Broadway from one who knew them, Character Man delivers iconic songs of ground-breaking composers including Jule Styne, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim. As the Times Square Chronicles wrote after a recent New York performance, “It’s just perfect!”
Robert Bartley direct Jim Brochu in his one-man show.


Stephen Hanks reviewed for Broadway World:
Character Man is a delightful, extremely well-crafted, Off-Broadway theater piece that is destined for a run that might rival his critically-acclaimed one-man Zero Mostel tribute show, Zero Hour, which played throughout the country between 2006-2012 and earned Brochu 2010 Drama Desk and Helen Hayes Awards.
In this tour-de-force performance, Brochu honors all the other great musical theater actors, many of them unsung, who he idolized from his teenage years through his adulthood, including Jack Gilford, Jackie Gleason, Robert Preston, George S. Irving, Cyril Richard, Phil Silvers, Barney Martin, Bert Lahr, Lou Jacobi, Charles Nelson Reilly, and most of all, his mentor David Burns, who is almost the star of this show. While a few of these versatile singer/actors, like Mostel, Preston, Gleason, and Richard, did shine in starring roles, for the most part they were all the solid supporting structures upon which some of the greatest Broadway musicals were built.
While there are only 11 songs (besides the opening number), they are so rich and well-delivered, it seems like more. (Brochu's original Musical Director John Fischer wrote the arrangements.) Brochu is a fine raconteur and the show is deeply personal without being self-indulgent, while his self-deprecating humor is revelatory and charming. The balance of script to songs and the tone of the show is almost perfect, and the photo presentation of the character men (some with Brochu in the shots) adds depth to the stories and isn't overdone.
...anyone who sees this triumphant show from an incredibly accomplished performer will certainly be changed for good.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
If you’ve dreamed of sitting in the upstairs  bar of Sardi’s to hear journeymen trade war stories about Broadway’s past, you can get a taste at Jim Brochu’s new one-man show, Character Man.

The veteran New York actor-playwright, who triumphed in 2009 with Zero Hour,  spends a couple of acts at Broward Stage Door recollecting his meetings with famous and not-as-famous stalwarts from Jackie Gleason to Jack Gilford, Zero Mostel to David Burns.
Compared to his volcanic recreation of Mostel in Zero Hour, Brochu is a gentle giant exuding a reserved gusto and a quiet charm. He’s learned from his heroes how to hold a stage without chewing the scenery. With a few exceptions, he stands still center stage, perhaps waving arms for emphasis or doing a couple of off-hand dance steps, but that’s it.

The entire show is enhanced with evocative productions photos, personal snapshots and headshots of these performers projected on screens on either side of the stage — plus a weird home movie with unintelligible sound depicting a party at Charles Nelson Reilly’s home in Los Angeles.
Brochu is ably accompanied by Stage Door stalwarts David Nagy on piano and Rupert Ziawinski on bass. They add their voices as well, standing in for the townspeople’s chorus in “Trouble “from The Music Man and or the pirate band in Cyril Ritchard’s “Capt. Hook’s Waltz” from Peter Pan.
The Miami Herald declined to review this production.  The Sun-Sentinel doesn't employ a theatre reviewer.

Character Man
plays at the  Broward Stage Door Theatre through August 11, 2013.

The Plaza Theatre: Waist Watchers The Musical (3 reviews)

The Plaza Theatre originally opened Waist Watchers The Musical on February on February 21, 2013.  After an extended run, they had to close it to make room for other productions.  They brought the show back on August 1, 2013, for a run through September 1, 2013.
This hilarious musical comedy with parody lyrics to well-known songs, has played to sold-out audiences across the country since 2007. Taking place in a women’s gym, four ladies work out and belt their hearts out about their struggles with diet, exercise, food and MEN!
Andy Rogow directed a cast that featured Missy McArdle, Shelley Keelor, Katie Angell Thomas, and Jeanne Bennett.

Jan Sjostrom reviewed the re-launched production for The Palm Beach Daily News:
The musical, which is resuming its long run after a short break, has settled comfortably into a well-oiled groove. Directed by Andy Rogow with an eye toward springing as many punchlines as possible, the production is energetically performed by a cast of powerful voices composed of Jeanne Bennett, Missy McArdle, Shelley Keelor and Katie Angell Thomas.
Sometimes the scenes are funny. When the lyrics and the music click, the performers make them snap. It’s impossible to resist lines such as “eat-just-what-you-want-because-it-doesn’t-matter diet,” sung to the melody of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious — especially when the performers are costumed as tempting sweets. McArdle brings down the house with her spot-on Tevye impression in If I Were a Size Two, performed to the tune of If I Were a Rich Man.

Other songs are a painful stretch. Efforts such as I Went to the Buffet Line — clogging I Heard it through the Grapevine’s melody — and The World’s Greatest Ice Cream — slathered onto The Impossible Dream — sink under the weight of clumsy writing. The tinny synthesized accompaniment is another irritation.

If you’re the right demographic and if all you’re looking for is 90 minutes of forgettable laughs, you’ll probably enjoy this show. All others might prefer to abstain.

Christine Dolen reviewed the March opening for The Miami Herald:
Orlando’s Jeanie Linders hit theatrical pay dirt a dozen years ago when she put together a show of parody songs and dubbed it Menopause the Musical.
Producer Alan Jacobson is clearly following Linders’ formula with Waistwatchers the Musical!, which has just opened at his Plaza Theatre in Manalapan. The show, which debuted at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in 2007 under the title Food Fight, has already been extended to mid-May -- an enormously long run by South Florida standards. The audience, so predominantly female that you have to look hard to spot a guy, eats the show up. Critics? Not so much.
...the dialogue is nothing more than glue to hold those parody songs together. Jacobson’s new lyrics are set to easily recognizable Baby Boomer-friendly melodies. ABBA’s Dancing Queen becomes Botox Queen. The Impossible Dream turns into The World’s Greatest Ice Cream (Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey wins top-scoop honors). The beautiful Maria from West Side Story is way less moving after morphing into Viagra.
Despite the limitations of the material, director Andy Rogow, choreographer Kevin Black and the talented cast work up a sweat selling Waistwatchers to the appreciative, none-too-picky audience. The curvy McArdle gets several showcase musical comedy moments, including If I Were a Size Two, set to the tune of If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof. Keelor scores with Lazy, an exhausted exerciser’s version of Crazy. Thomas’ guy-juggling Carla turns I Am Woman into I Am Cougar, though she doesn’t look old enough to be doing any cradle robbing. Bennett amusingly croons Viagra, though her show-and-tell “choreography” with a gym towel is more than the song needs.
Hap Erstein reviewed the earlier run for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Plaza Theatre producer Alan Jacobson insists he was not trying to emulate the mega-successful girl-power song-parody revue Menopause, the Musical when he wrote Waist Watchers, the Musical, but the two shows could not be more similar if he had overlaid one on top of the other and used a template.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Your reaction to Waist Watchers probably will echo your opinion of the earlier show, and judging from the frenzied, almost entirely female audience I was among in Manalapan recently, The Plaza has a commercial hit on its hands.
Director Andy Rogow, who has been attached to the show since it premiered six years ago under the title Food Fight, knows the importance of casting talented, energetic women who are committed to selling this only intermittently entertaining material.


McArdle seems to have the show’s best numbers or she delivers them more disarmingly than the others. She certainly earns a rousing reaction from the audience singing the wistful If I Were a Size Two, sung, naturally, to the tune of Fiddler on the Roof’s If I Were a Rich Man.

It is one of some two dozen songs based on pop music hits and Broadway standards. Unfortunately, once the lyric’s initial spoofing twist is stated, the rest of the number is usually just repetition. Still, the cast delivers the score with gusto, aided by Kevin Black’s athletic choreography.
Waist Watchers the Musical plays at The Plaza Theatre through March 21 has been extended through May 12, 2013. through September 1, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Scene for August 2, 2013

This summer is just racing past, isn't it?  I barely remember July 4th, and here it's already August.
 
The South Florida Theater League WILL have a presence at tonight's performance of Slava's Snowshow, but the bed will not. We've heard something about an ersatz beach scene for "summer fun." Sounds like beachy-weachy-fun in sunny.

Speaking of the South Florida Theater League, they're holding Unified Auditions for its member companies on August 12.  Contact the league for details.

Monday, Theatre League member theatres will be hosting free readings of plays by playwrights who are League members.  This coming Monday, it's another double-header: Naked Stage will be reading Christopher Demos-Brown's Fate Motif, while GableStage will be reading Choreographing a Rape Scene for a Feminist Play by Anne Gillespie.
 
Here's what's playing on the scene this weekend.
 

opening...  
 
 If it's August, it must be time for Slava's Snowshow.  This extravagant production returns for a month long engagment at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
 

you still haven't missed...   

Actors' Playhouse offers the musical Rated P for Parenthood at the Miracle Theater through August 11.

Jim Brocchu returns to South Florida with Character Man at the Stage Door Theatre through August 11.
   
Good People plays at Gablestage, through August 18.  
 
The Theatre at Arts Garage offers Beyond the Rainbow, through August 11. And for once, it's not a drag show.
 

last chance to see...
 
The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode winds up its run at Empire Stage this Sunday, August 4.
 

community and conservatory...
 
FIU's Alternative Theater Festival offers A Thousand Years, through Saturday.   

Storycrafter Studio offers its original production of Flesh and Blooders through August 11, 2013.
 
Main Street Players presents David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole through August 11, 2013.


for kids...
   
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater offers The Pied Piper through August 3. 
 
Sol Children's Theatre Troupe offers Thoroughly Modern Millie for two shows on August 2nd only.