Friday, October 31, 2014

The Scene for October 31, 2014

It’s that time of year again – the South Florida Theatre League has announced the recipients of this year’s Remy Awards
They will be given out at this years’ Theatre League Holiday Party, held at STACHE at 7:30 pm on December 1, 2014.  The party is free to members, and $25 at the door for non-members, although we recommend taking the opportunity to join the league; you get more than the party.  You can do it at the door, or you can join now.  You can even use Pay Pal.
Added bonus: the Silver Palm Awards are also distributed at the Holiday Party.  So come, and join in the celebration with all of the honorees.
Here's what's playing on South Florida stages this weekend:  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Outré Theatre Company: Back of the Throat (3 reviews)

OutreOutre Theatré Company opened its production of Back of the Throat at the Sol Theater on October 24, 2014.
El Guindi’s Back of the Throat is an unflinching and Strangelovian look at the post-9/11 stripping of Americans’ rights in the name of security. Khaled, an Arab-American writer, finds himself the target of a “casual” inquiry by two government agents. But as rumors swirl and grudges are exposed, the darkness behind such governmental euphemisms as “person of interest” and “extraordinary rendition” is revealed. Far from being preachy, El Guindi’s play asks the simple question: when they come for you, who will be your voice?
Skye Whitcomb directed a cast that included Rayner Garranchan, Jim Gibbons, Tim Gore, Faiza Cherie, and Freddy Valle.

Miami Theater Center: Hedda Gabler (4 reviews)

SFTL_HeddaMiami Theater Center opened its original adaptation of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler on October 23, 2014.
Passion. Deception. Betrayal. Experience one of the most captivating and tortured heroines in history. Don't miss this new adaptation of the world-famous drama about a reluctant housewife rebelling against the prison of stability.
An adaption of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play  by Stephanie Ansin and Fernando Calzadilla.
MTC Artistic Director Stephanie Ansin directed a cast that included Jessica Farr, Paul Tei, Gregg Weiner, John Denison, Diana Garle, Kate Young and Kitt Marsh.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Scene for October 24, 2014.

It’s been slamming in our corner of the theatre scene, and from the looks of things, it’s just as busy everywhere else.
We’re sorry to see the Plaza Theatre close; they never managed to find the grand patrons to underwrite the costs of producing shows, which means they relied almost entirely on ticket sales to operate.  And with such high rental rates at their location, a slump in sales was deadly.  Our sympathies to the producers, and all the technicians and artists who would have worked there this season.
Do not miss And the Award Goes to: An Evening of Broadway Songs And The Carbonell Award Winners, playing Saturday night for two shows only at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.  It’s just what you think it is: a night of South Florida’s best performers singing top Broadway show tunes.
Here's what's playing on South Florida stages this weekend:  

New Theatre: The Cuban Spring (reviews)

cuban_spring_posterNew Theatre opened its world premiere production of Vanessa Garcia’s The Cuban Spring at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center on October 11, 2014.
Penned by local playwright Vanessa Garcia, this family drama revolves around secrets, identity crisis of a separated generation, and the sacrifices one must go through to live in democracy.
Ricky J Martinez directed a cast that included Tanya Bravo, Nick Duckart, Ethan Henry, Carlos Orizondo and Evelyn Perez.

Slow Burn Theatre: Carrie The Musical (reviews)

CARRIESlow Burn Theater opened its much-anticipated production of Carrie The Musical at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater on October 16, 2014.
Carrie White is a misfit. At school, she’s an outcast who’s bullied by the popular crowd, and virtually invisible to everyone else.
At home, she’s at the mercy of her loving but cruelly over-protective mother. But Carrie’s just discovered she’s got a special power, and if pushed too far, she’s not afraid to use it. Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel, the musical of  Carrie  hasn’t been seen since its legendary 1988 Broadway production. Set today, in the small town of Chamberlain, Maine,  Carrie  features a book by Lawrence D. Cohen (screenwriter of the classic film), music by Academy Award winner Michael Gore (Fame,  Terms of Endearment), and lyrics by Academy Award winner Dean Pitchford (Fame,  Footloose).
Patrick Fitzwater directed a cast that included Anne Chamberlain, Shelly Keelor, Christina Flores, Jessica Brooke Sandford, Ann Marie Olson, Alexander Zenoz, Kristian Bikic, Matthew Korinko, Kayla Fast, Jennifer Chia, Colleen Campbell, Bruno Vida, Ricardo Silva, Michael Friedman and Josh Lerner.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Scene for October 17, 2014

We’ve finally gotten a break in the weather.  It was a cool and refreshing 78 degrees when we ventured out in the pre-dawn murk.  Proof that at last, Summer is truly gone.
While the weather is cooling down, the theatre scene continues to heat up. Carrie the Musical and The Rocky Horror Show open this weekend, to get us in the mood for Halloween.  Meanwhile, it’s your last chance to catch Mothers and Sons at Gablestage.
Here's what's playing on South Florida stages this weekend:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Palm Beach Dramaworks: Our Town (5 reviews)

PBD_show70Palm Beach Dramaworks opened its production of Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town on October 10, 2014.
The beauty of ordinary life is celebrated in this Pulitzer Prize-winning play, as the citizens of Grover's Corners experience birth, love, marriage, and death, and the attendant joy, heartbreak, and transience of being alive.
J. Barry Lewis directed a cast that included Nick Arenstein, Allie Beltran, Michael Collins, Elizabeth Dimon, John Felix, Joe Ferrarelli, Patti Gardner, Cliff Goulet, Sawyer Hyatt, Dave Hyland, Hal Johnstone, Kenneth Kay, Emiley Kiser, Dan Leonard, Margery Lowe, Colin McPhillamy, Char Plotsky, Joshua Stoughton, Justin Strikowski and Patrick A. Wilkinson
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
For such a seemingly simple play, Our Town requires the audience to generously invest their attention and imagination. Thornton Wilder’s classic set in a small town in New Hampshire only works when its visitors travel more than halfway there.
But for those willing to make that journey, the gossamer delicate play can vibrate the heartstrings and the synapses, as it does in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ deft production.
Hundreds of third-rate productions by high school and amateur theaters have flattened it, hyped it and botched it by playing it too condescendingly cute or too ham-handedly literal or any of a dozen other potential missteps.
But resident director J. Barry Lewis and his troupe of 21 thespians – the most ever on a Dramaworks stage – hit that elusive sweet spot.
Besides the insightful leadership of Lewis, the play features an ensemble of actors, most reunited having played at Dramaworks on and off throughout its history… All create recognizable types in any community, yet invest each with a specificity and uniqueness that keeps them from being cartoonish stereotypes.
Kiser, in particular, is perfection as the mature-for-her-age youngster, then the awkward lovesick girl and then the toughest challenge as the deceased Emily who is stunned at what she learns about life. In a speech usually mangled by high school student actors, Kiser movingly bids farewell to Life as exemplified by acknowledging such shards as sunflowers and clocks ticking.
Holding the center ever-so-gently is Colin McPhillamy, so brilliant in Exit The King last year, creates a chatty genial persona for the Stage Manager. His slow high reedy voice bespeaks a veteran observer who has been a de facto philosopher for years without ever thinking of himself as one.
Lewis is best known for his ability to plumb and communicate the most intricate depths of intellectually complex works. But here he has simply dove deep into the emotional truth of the work. Although he certainly has shown an ability for moving people around the stage without calling attention to his work, the theatricality of this piece allows him to create some striking stage tableaus.
…Dramaworks’ stage mirrors the 1938 original. Scenic and lighting designer Paul Black has created the unadorned backstage of a 1930s theater, complete with bare brick back wall and weather-worn wooden catwalks under an iron girder, much of it evocatively painted by Rebecca Pancoast. The scenery is just plain tables and chairs left over from a rehearsal. The attention to detail is stunning down to broken slats in the vent for an air handler.
There may never be a perfect mounting of Our Town. It is a work of genius but it always gives you the sense that a better production is out there somewhere. It’s almost an unattainable goal for theater artists that they, thank goodness, never stop striving for. But Dramaworks certainly has delivered one of the deepest and most satisfying runs at it than we’ve seen in this region in a long, long time.
 Jan Sjostrom reviewed for The Palm Beach Daily News:
The classic play is being given an unpretentious and thoughtful production guided by J. Barry Lewis at Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach. - See more at:
The classic play is being given an unpretentious and thoughtful production guided by J. Barry Lewis at Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach.
The 21-member cast features many Dramaworks veterans and some of the finest players in South Florida. They include Elizabeth Dimon, playing the motherly Julia Gibbs; Margery Lowe as the gossipy Mrs. Soames; and Dan Leonard turning his dry wit to the portrayal of Charles Webb.
A welcome newcomer to Dramaworks’ stage is Emiley Kiser, playing Emily Webb with effortless radiance. Emily’s life and death provide the through line to the story. Our tour guide is Colin McPhillamy, portraying the stage manager with folksy matter-of-factness.
The show is not without humor. Leonard’s dry delivery of Charles Webb’s advice to George before his wedding is LOL funny. But the message to live our lives to the fullest while we can keeps surfacing to the end, when we’re wished a good night’s rest — a metaphor for the eternal rest that comes all too soon.

Dale King wrote for Palm Beach Artspaper:

True to its promise to provide “theater to think about,” Palm Beach Dramaworks opened its 2014-2015 season this past weekend with Thornton Wilder’s unadorned but hauntingly personal play, Our Town.
The inhabitants of Grover’s Corners include some of South Florida’s best-known thespians...
In their roles as George and Emily, Ferrarelli (in his professional debut) and Kiser are exceptional and very natural. They both aptly display a grasp of emotions perfectly suited to their parts. 
Dimon warmly depicts Mrs. Gibbs, and Kay’s occasionally stern demeanor is nicely juxtaposed with Dimon’s loving touch. Patti Gardner plays Mrs. Webb with a charming flair. As her husband, Dan Leonard can also be stern, but is clearly a soft touch. The way he comforts his daughter’s fears before her wedding is delightful.
Adding finely observed touches are Michael Collins as Simon Stimson, the choirmaster whose drinking problem is spoken about in whispers; Lowe as Mrs. Soames, a friend and neighbor who adds a comic touch during the wedding by commenting over and over to the audience about how beautiful it is, and Felix as Professor Willard, whose geology-obsessed cameo is a hoot.
Director J. Barry Lewis draws fine work from all the players in this now-classic work of the American stage, and Dramaworks’ production lets Wilder’s austerely presented but powerfully realized slice of life speak for its eloquent self.

Leslie Gray Streeter wrote for the Palm Beach Post, who obligingly hid it behind their obscenely expensive pay wall:
“Our Town” is one of those classic American works whose power comes in its seemingly benign nature. Some seven decades after its debut, Thornton Wilder’s look at the cycle of life in a quiet New England town might seem as sleepy as Grover’s Corners itself. But as Palm Beach Dramaworks’ current adaptation proves, its emotional gut punch sneaks up on you in the quiet.
The play is traditionally performed on a minimal set, without props, so Paul Black’s hauntingly spare design — a stark wooden scaffold with two descending staircases — becomes a character itself... The very spareness of it is wrenching, because Wilder’s words, the competent actors and the imagination of the audience are enough to conjure the details of small town life as reliable as the newspaper and milk bottles delivered to the Webb and Gibbs families each morning.
Kiser, particularly, is heartbreaking as she navigates Emily’s life stages and begs to reverse them, helplessly, against the inescapable things that the other townspeople, and Wilder, and the audience, know must stand.
Dramaworks breathes new life into this reliable work, making even its inevitability fresh and stirring.
Glad we only spent a buck.  $15 bucks a week?  The Post publisher is smoking crack.  We don’t pay that for our NYT digital subscription.

The blog Lacunae Musing caught the show, and it's a far superior critique:
In celebration of Dramaworks’ 15th season, it has staged a beautiful, memorable rendering, with the largest cast in its history, many veterans of other Dramaworks shows.
Although it is the traditional minimalist set, with no props other than the chairs and tables... It is evocative of New England. It speaks of earlier times, a simpler way of life, but life, nonetheless, as we all still live it in all its cycles.  The minimalist set asks us, the audience, to use our own imagination, enter the play, and to fill in the blanks.
So why does this play never tire, in spite of the number of times we’ve seen it? It is a play about everyman – us – and it is a celebration of what it means to be part of a community. It’s about the transience of life, something we become increasingly aware of as we age, putting our brief humdrum existence in context (“The cottage, the go cart, the Sunday-afternoon drives in the Ford, the first rheumatism, the grandchildren, the second rheumatism, the deathbed, the reading of the will. Once in a thousand times it’s interesting.”). It is a call to find beauty and meaning in the ordinary.
How fitting that the Stage Manger role should go to Colin McPhillamy… He is the consummate actor (and fellow blogger). He gives a tour de force performance inhabiting the role of the authoritative, omniscient guide for the audience, easily transitioning to briefly becoming a character in the play and then back again as the “stage manager.”
Emiley Kiser, a Dramaworks newcomer, plays Emily Webb... Emiley Kiser is the kind of actress who just radiates her youth, making the transition from teenager to young adult on stage, the perfect choice for the fabled girl next door in the mythical town of Grover’s Corner.
Ferrarelli plays his role with the breathless expectation of the future, a life with his childhood (albeit secret) sweetheart, one that he takes for granted will last, well, forever.
The other major roles are all played by Dramaworks’ veterans and their experience and love of working together shines in their professionalism.
…special mention should be made about the lighting, designed by the same person who handled the scenic design, Paul Black. With lighting, he captured the characters bathed in moonlight, drew the audience focus to certain characters while keeping others in dappled shadows, and making the characters in the cemetery seem, well, other-worldly. The lighting was not obtrusive, but greatly enhanced the production. Costumes of the period were spot on, thanks to Robin L. McGee’s efforts and when you needed to hear that railroad in the distance, sound designer, Matt Corey was right on cue. Indeed, it’s these little things that help make a brilliant professional production.
Finally, it takes a special director to bring all of these elements together into a seamless, fulfilling creation. J. Barry Lewis had never directed Our Town during his long career and it took a confluence of events… a theatre company reaching maturity, with actors uniquely qualified for the roles, and professional designers and a stage well equipped to bring out all Thornton Wilder intended. A deft director’s hand is critical to avoid the sense of sentimentality and to focus on the weighty universal truths behind the cycle of life of the play’s characters. He is careful to capture the humor Wilder interjects here and there as well as to counterbalance the tragic elements.
Palm Beach Dramaworks presents Thornton Wilder’s Our Town through November 9, 2014

Arsht Center: Peter and the Starcatcher (reviews)

aaPeter and the Starcatcher - UM - CopyPeter and the Starcatcher made its regional debut at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on October 9, 2014, a co-production by the Arsht Center and the University of Miami Department of Theatre Arts.
Winner of five Tony Awards, Rick Elice’s PETER AND THE STARCATCHER is the innovative and imaginative play with music based on the best-selling novel by Miami native Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. In this high-flying adventure, twelve actors play more than 100 unforgettable characters – plus most of the scenery and furniture – in an exhilarating journey to answer the century-old question: How did Peter Pan become The Boy Who Never Grew Up? This epic origin story proves that one’s own imagination is the most captivating place in the world!
Henry Fonte directed a cast that included Nicholas Richbert, Tom Wahl, Abigail Berkowitz, Thomas Jansen, Joshua Jacobson, Timothy Bell, Timothy Boehm-Manion, Robert Fritz, Alejandro Gonzales Del Pino, Liam Merkle, Matt Sawalski, and Michael Mancini.
Howard Cohen wrote for The Miami Herald:
So much is going on in this fizzy prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan prequel, Peter and Wendy, audience alertness is a must to soak up all the puns, plot and pratfalls. But if you’re not so inclined and miss a joke, or a plot point, Rick Ellice, who co-wrote the touring juggernaut Jersey Boys and wrote the Starcatcher script, keeps throwing things at the audience. Something will stick.
Twelve talented actors, most of them University of Miami theater students who work with seasoned Equity pros Nicholas Richberg and Tom Wahl, perform not only their main roles but dozens of others, including roles as scenery and props. Rolling waves in this seafaring tale? Give cast members a rope and have them simulate a roiling sea upon which the action unfurls…  It’s theater-on-the-cheap writ large, and it looks fantastic.
Happily, the UM students, in the fourth coproduction between the school’s Department of Theater Arts and the Arsht’s Theater Up Close series, erase the lines between the pros and themselves.
Everyone is on equal footing — Richberg, as the flamboyant Freddie Mercury-like Black Stache/future Captain Hook, and Wahl, as Lord Aster, father of the young heroine Molly, along with Timothy Boehm-Manion, Joshua Jacobson and Timothy Bell as the orphans.
Sophomore Thomas Jansen, in the pantomime mame role as Mrs. Bumbrake… makes the most of his amusingly alliteration-heavy dialog. Jansen deftly spews bon mots like, “Betty’s blowing her bloomin’ breakfast,” as the storm-tossed sea — or thunderously flatulent love interest seaman Alf (Michael Mancini) — gets Bumbrake’s bloomers in a bunch.
Molly, played by Abigail Berkowitz, a UM musical theater major senior, is particularly well-pitched as the 13-year-old girl who blends precocious proto-feminist ideals with her strange new feelings…
Elice’s script, set in 1885, takes jabs at pop culture… Black Stache’s malapropisms —“As elusive as the melody at a Philip Glass opera” — amuse, but director Henry Fonte allows scenes to play on far too long. Black Stache’s mishap in the second act overplays its joke by at least five beats.
Likable when it should be lovable, the silly Starcatcher’s family-friendly take on never-ending childhood would benefit from a good trim and focus.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Probably the funniest thing I've seen on stage the past twenty years is Nicholas Richberg as Captain Black Stache, (get it?) the pirate, with his treasure chest. A little accident befalls him and his seemingly endless stream of OMG's takes funny to a level in the heavens. Richberg has the lead in "Peter and the Starcatcher" now playing at Miami's Arsht Center, and lead he does, brilliantly.
The show is a joint production of the Adrienne Arsht Center and the University of Miami Theatre Arts Department so we have student actors working with two professional Equity members, Richberg and Tom Wahl. Students they may be, but the kids hang step for step with the pros.
Fluidly directed by the UM's Henry Fonte with unique music by Wayne Barker. Set design by Yoshinori Tanokura with sound by Matt Corey, lights by Eric Haugen and costumes by Ellis Tillman. The musical director/conductor/pianist is NDavid (no typo) Williams and the percussionist is Mark Schubert. The prop design (including the sailing ships) is by Puppet Network and Monica Soderman.
A well-deserved standing ovation at the end for Peter and the Starcatcher.
The regional premier of Peter and the Starcatcher plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through October 26, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Actors’ Playhouse: Murder Ballad (3 reviews)

1.Murder Ballad.MainstageActors’ Playhouse opened its production of Murder Ballad at the Miracle Theater on October 8, 2014.
Enter the passionate and violent world of a Lower East Side Bar and a Love Triangle gone wrong. MURDER BALLAD centers on Sara an Upper West-Sider who seems to have it all, but whose downtown past lingers enticingly and dangerously in front of her. Featuring a contemporary pop-rock score and a setting where the audience is placed in the bar and up close and personal with the actors, this sexy, explosive new musical explores the complications of love, the compromises we make, and the betrayals that can ultimately undo us.
David Arisco directed a cast that featured Blythe Gruda, Chris Crawford, Mariand Torres, and Mark Sanders.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Every couple of years, Actors’ Playhouse – home of the mainstream musical – says what the hell and mounts an edgy modern work that nourishes the creative soul of artistic director David Arisco and the theater’s more adventurous patrons… Add to that list this production of the off-Broadway cult rock opera Murder Ballad that mixes love, lust, loss, passion, fury, pain and violence in a fatal triangle as old as Mankind but as current as last week’s tabloid.
Mercilessly insightful lyrics about a doomed search for self-validating love and excoriating driving music are delivered with courageous abandon by a quartet of highly skilled musical theater actors, whipped on by Arisco who has posted what may be a personal best in staging.
The superb actors wring out every drop of toxic emotion with their bravura voices, their agonized facial expressions, their sensual body language without ever overacting or hitting a false note. Gruda may be remembered as the sister in Floyd Collins or Songs For A New World). Crawford spent last season in Zoetic’s Assassins and Dramaworks’ The Lion in Winter. Sanders was the father in next to normal and the standout, pouty sullen Torres, is a standout from New York originally from Miami.
Arisco creates memorable tableaus with the scenery he’s given… his command of movement without a choreographer is unparalleled.
Staging a show in the round is always a challenge and Arisco ensures most audience members never feel that they are seeing the actors’ backs too often. Even with performers singing to each other from the far ends of the performing area, he invisibly directs your attention where it should go, helped by Eric Nelson’s nimble lighting.
The rest of the creative team is also working at the top of their game. Mitch Furman’s sound makes every lyric crystalline. Ellis Tillman created costumes that seem as if they just came out of a Soho closet but which illuminate their personality. Gene Seyffer’s set design and Jodi Dellaventura’s set dressing/ props create the environment that must stand in for so many locations. This sung-through work is also a triumph for musical director Eric Alsford plus his whipcracking band Martha Spangler on bass, Roy Fantel on percussion and Sandy Poltarack on guitar.
Lee Zimmerman reviewed for the Miami New Times:
Frankly, this may be one of the most original and entertaining offerings Actors' Playhouse has ever presented, and considering the theater's 27-year history, that's saying really saying something.
The usual accolades can be called upon for inclusion here -- "sexy," "seductive," and in this case, "superlative," but in fact, those adjectives only begin to describe this intimate encounter. The first thing that strikes the audience on entering Actors' Playhouse Balcony Theater is the stunning set by Gene Seyffer. The upstairs theater's usual standard seating has been totally uprooted, with the entire space transformed into an expansive recreation of a Greenwich Village tavern, complete with vintage wall decor, a working bar, guest tables, and a pool table.
…the songs are uniformly compelling and serve a much better purpose than merely moving the story along. Thankfully too, the lean but capable four-piece band under the direction of Eric Alsford is also adept, neither too showy nor too subdued when it comes to giving the score its due.
Gruda, Crawford, Sanders, and Torres are all accomplished singers, as good, in fact, as any to be found in any musical, on Broadway or off. Torres is especially magnificent, with a voice that can wail with anguish or emote as needed to guide the developments along. Artistic director David Arisco, whose diversity and daring when it comes to tackling new works is a marvel in itself -- again rises to the challenge of overseeing what could otherwise have been a calamity of confusion and missed and muddled cues. It's evident once again that Actors' Playhouse is indeed fortunate to have him and, that he, in turn, is also blessed to have the theater's palate of presentations to work with.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Actors' Playhouse described their new show as immersive. And that it is. Any more immersive and skivvies and bras would be hanging from the chandeliers. ...this is "Murder Ballard," the pop rock opera (well, almost) that puts the audience in the lower Manhattan neighborhood bar where the bartender and his girlfriend do the horizontal hoo hahs on the bar top, the billiards table and anywhere else that won't knock the patrons off their stools.
And is it any good? I'll say. Four wonderfully physical actor/singers backed by a driving band build the pressure from the first minute to the eightieth. No spoken words here, just ballads and belts telling the oldest tale of them all.   
It's slick direction from David Arisco as he moves his players around, on and under the furniture. Fearsome fights and lusty maulings. Oh, how the other half lives.  And these people can sing. Beautifully. Whatever it takes.
Actors' Playhouse has transformed their upstairs balcony theatre into the neighborhood hangout, the King's Club, complete with bandstand, bar, billiards table, and patron's chairs and tables. A major effort done well. A few rows of regular seating surround the stage, but if you want to see and feel the sweat, hear every brilliant note, just become part of the show, then grab a table and be prepared for a rare and exciting evening.
Actors’ Playhouse  presents  Murder Ballad at the Miracle Theater through November 2, 2014.

Mondays are Dark

As predicted, the theater season has started with a vengeance.  Eight shows opened across three counties last week, with more on the way.  This week’s big opening is Slow Burn’s long awaited production of the musical version of Stephen King’s Carrie.  Yes, its Broadway premiere was a flop of legendary proportions, but it enjoyed an extended off-Broadway revival in 2012.


Here’s your Monday reading list:


24 Hour Theatre Project

Florida Theater On Stage reports that Naked Stage’s annual 24 Hour Theatre Project is on track to play on October 27 at Palm Beach Dramaworks.  But this year, the beneficiary isn’t The Naked Stage.  This year’s proceeds will go to help  long-time theatre supporter Dana Castellan cover the costs of her fight against cancer.


A Spanish Language Theatre Festival

The Miami Herald fills us on on the fifth annual TEMfest, run by Teatro En Miami. It opened last week at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium.


Playing in Palm Beach

The Palm Beach Post fills us in on Our Town at Palm Beach Dramaworks, and Carrie the Musical from Slow Burn Theatre Company (as mentioned above).  And here’s Hap Erstein’s Season Preview.


Speaking of Slow Burn

Florida Theater On Stage fills us in on their move to The Broward Center for the Performing Arts next season.

The move brings a significant theater producer to a county that has suffered the loss of major companies in recent years, even as smaller troupes have cropped up.

Currently, the company stages plays in West Boca, Aventura, and Fort Lauderdale, making it the only theater company producing shows in all three counties that make up metropolitan South Florida.


Jupiter Foreigners

Broadway World reports on all the folks foreign to Florida opening in The Foreigner at The Maltz Jupiter Theatre next week. Well, their may be an Asolo Theater regular or two in the mix.


Professionals and Students

Florida Theater On Stage takes a look behind the scenes of Peter and the Starcatcher, which opened last week at the Arsht Center.

With University of Miami students working alongside seasoned professionals in almost every job, an apprenticeship has been forged that has had such a mutually synergistic benefit that sometimes the lines get blurred who are the mentors and who are the mentees.


The highly theatrical and adult-oriented origin story of Peter Pan is the fourth co-production of the Arsht’s Theater Up Close series and UM’s Department of Theatre Arts.


Reviving Annie

Christine Dolen is out of town, but she did manage to get in a story in The Miami Herald about the current national tour of Annie, playing at the Broward Center through this Saturday.

“This is my 19th time directing it,” Charnin says. “Over the course of the years, it morphs into different kinds of events. Sometimes, I discover it’s drifted so far away from its original intentions, I have to bring it back. ... This is more like the original.”

Life is a Cabaret Du Jour

The Sun-Sentinel fills us in on Cabaret Du Jour playing a limited run at Empire Stage through October 15.


Art is Life

Scroll down this Miami Herald article to find out where you can see Deborah Sherman perform her solo show, Frida: Unmasked this Friday.  And then you can read on to learn about Thinking Cap Theatre’s new reading series.


Speaking of Thinking Cap

The Sun-Sentinel spoke with Thinking Cap Theatre’s artistic director Nicole Stodard about their upcoming programming.

“At our production meeting, I said, ‘Put on your party hats and not just your thinking caps,’ “ says Nicole Stodard, the company’s founding artistic director. “We definitely haven’t done anything seasonal to date. It’s all been mission-driven work. I think it’s a good way to provide more fare for audiences and to get more people involved in the community and get people working.” 

Older Romance

Broadway World fills us in on Broward Stage Door’s production of The Last Romance, which opened this past Friday.

"The Last Romance is a warm, funny and insightful play about love after 65," says Whitelaw. "I hope our audiences will leave the theatre with a smile on their faces and a tear in their eyes. I know that after I read it, I did. Joe DiPietro is a talented young writer, who knows his characters and their territory."

Arthur Whitelaw directs this production.  His productions have racked awards including the Tony, Oscar, Emmy, Olivier, Evening Standard, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, and more.  Guess he wants to add “Carbonell” to the list.



The Palm Beach Daily News reports that there are no plans to demolish the long-dormant Royal Poinciana Playhouse, probably.  But we haven’t heard much lately about plans to re-open it, either.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Scene for October 10, 2014

We told you the season was kicking in, and here’s the proof: SEVEN major productions opening across metro South Florida this week.
Annie opened Tuesday in Broward, Our Town, Murder Ballad and Cuban Spring open this weekend – no matter where you live, something is playing close to you.  Make sure you get out and enjoy the opening salvoes of what promises to be the busiest theatre season on record.
Here’s what’s playing this week on The Scene:

Palm Beach Dramaworks opens the Thornton Wilder classic Our Town, through November 9, 2014.
Actors’ Playhouse has reconfigured its Balcony Theatre to present Murder Ballad, through November 2, 2014.
New Theater presents the world premiere of Vanessa Garcia’s Cuban Spring at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.  Through November 2.
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts partnered with the University of Miami theater department to produce Peter and the Starcatcher at the Carnival Studio Theater, through October 26.
The Miami Light Project presents the world premiere of Teo Castellano’s Third Trinity at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, through October 19.
The Last Romance opens at Broward Stage Door, through October 23.

you still haven't missed...
Jamaica Farewell plays at Empire Stage through October 19, 2014.
GableStage presents its production of Terence McNally’s Mothers and Sons through October 19, 2014.
Broward Stage Door’s production of What’s New Pussycat has been extended through October 19..
The Slow Burn Theatre Company  production of The Marvelous Wondrettes plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through November 23, 2014.

coming and going...
The national tour of Annie plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through October 19, 2014.
Culture Shock Miami presents The Intergalactic Nemesis – Target Earth at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center this Saturday only.

last chance to see...
The Area Stage  production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee closes this Sunday, October 12, 2014.

community and conservatory...
Spring Awakening awakens at The Main Street Playhouse, through October 12.
Florida Atlantic University present The Cherry Orchard in its Studio One Theatre through October 17.
New World School of the Arts presents Rock’n’Roll, through October 19.
Nova Southeast University presents Betty’s Summer Vacation, through October 19, 2014.

Lake Worth Playhouse opens the musical Mame, through October 29.


for kids...
Click Clack Moo is the centerpiece of Family Fun Day at the venerable Parker Playhouse this Saturday.
Miami Children’s Theatre opens Mulan, through October 30, 2014. 

Broward Center for the Performing Arts: Annie (reviews)

BAA_AnnieThe national tour of Annie opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on October 7, 2014.
The world's best-loved musical returns in time-honored form. Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin and choreographed by Liza Gennaro, this production of ANNIE will be a brand new incarnation of the iconic original. Featuring book and score by Tony Award®-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin, ANNIE includes such unforgettable songs as "It's the Hard Knock Life," "Easy Street," "I Don't Need Anything But You," plus the eternal anthem of optimism, "Tomorrow."
Martin Charnin directed a cast that included Issie Swickel, Gilgamesh Tagget, Lynn Andrews, Ashely Edler, Garret Deagon, Lucy Werner, and Allan Ray Baker.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Why should you go to see Annie yet once again, besides delighting your children and the fact that this edition of a new-from-scratch national tour at the Broward Center is one of best Annie productions we’ve seen? Two reasons.
The first is that Martin Charnin, directing it literally for the 19th time since he helmed it in 1976, has banished a lot of the saccharine overkill and played the remaining cuteness and heart-tugging moments against a grimy, downtrodden Depression that resonates a good deal with our current world…not that this is a dark revisionist Annie..
The second reason to see this Annie is Annie. Savor the national bow of Davie resident Issie Swickle as she nails the title role with the polish and chops of someone a lot older than her nine years…
Now here’s a surprise: She can belt out a song with best of them and she has performer’s pizzazz without self-consciously mugging for applause. But Swickle’s not some blinding strobe light pulling focus from everyone else like such forces of nature as the original Annie, Andrea McArdle. She’s not a dynamo (although she reportedly has that quality), she’s not a mini-Merman (although she reportedly has that ability). She actually acts the part, not performs it – which is probably why Charnin chose her over about 500 other applicants. It’s especially evident in the non-belt numbers such as the wistful opening number “Maybe.”
…she has first-rate support from a no excuses cast top-to-bottom, starting with Lynn Andrews as greedhead Miss Hannigan and Gilgamesh Taggett as Warbucks . Taggett, who has played the role twice before, persuasively creates the gruff, emotionally shut off billionaire who learns what he has been missing… Try to resist when Warbucks has committed his heart and yet must deny his own happiness to ensure Annie’s when she says all she wants is to find her parents.
Andrews, bless her, does not spend a moment trying to win the audience’s favor by winkingly playing the role as a lovable comedienne like when Carol Burnett did it in John Huston’s misbegotten film version. Her Miss Hannigan is still a blowsy alcoholic abusive monster, but the villainess’ hapless and luckless pursuit of riches somehow seems almost pitiful in its doomed ineptness. Almost.
Credit to Ashley Elder as secretary Grace who holds her own in a part that usually fades into the background. Garrett Deagon and Lucy Werner are delightfully venal and rubber-legged as Rooster and Lily St. Regis (named after the hotel she brags, which prompts to Hannigan to ask, which floor).
A shout out to the chipper FDR played by Allan Baker who has appeared at Actors Playhouse in both Mid-Life Crisis (Mid Life 2 – The Crisis Continues) shows and Becky’s New Car.
And, of course, the moppets who are simultaneously appealing and might pick your pocket if you gave them a chance: Adia Dant, Isabel Wallach, Lillybea Ireland, Sydney Shuck, the impossibly cute Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly, and Miamian Angelina Carballo.
But the show is the real star: Meehan’s perfectly constructed book, Charnin’s witty lyrics and Charles Strouse’s infectious score. And this crew under Charnin’s direction lands number after number with a polish and perfection that makes you shake your head. There is not a single weak moment in the production.
Jack Gardner reviewed for Edge Miami:
This current incarnation of Annie very much resembles the origins, directed by original lyricist Charnin and is faithful to its initial concept in practically every way. The choreography by Liza Gennaro was simple and effective.
The cast of this current tour features several very strong singers. Of particular note is Lynn Andrews in the role of Miss Hannigan… Andrews' performance holds up well against the competition. She shakes her ample form around the stage with evil abandon and belts out the high notes with the best of them. She's so evil that you can't help but like her.
In the role of Daddy Warbucks Gilgamesh Taggett was one of the highlights of the evening. Taggett is a fine singer and has the perfect look for this role. He's settled into this character beautifully and gave us some of the best singing of the evening.
In the title role, native Floridian Issie Swickle does a great job. While her voice is not as rich as that of Andrea McArdle, the role's creator, it is a fine voice that rings out loud, clear and consistently on pitch. She has the look and the character down pat and she charms the audience from the moment she steps onto the stage.
In the role of Rooster Hannigan, the villainous brother of Miss Hannigan, Garrett Deagon gave a memorable performance. His tall lanky frame made his dancing one of the highlights of the evening. As Lily St. Regis, Rooster's cohort Lucy Werner was cute playing the dumb blonde.
In the role of Grace Farrell, the assistant to Warbucks, Ashley Edler was a blonde delight with a lilting soprano voice. As Molly, the youngest of the orphans, Lily Mae Stewart with her mop of curly hair and spunky personality drew the audience's attention each time she came on stage.
Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
Annie - now in a two-week run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts - is one of those shows that have worked their way into our consciousness… This road tour is no different in that respect, hitting all the checkpoints on the list. The kids are calculatingly cute. The villainous Miss Hannigan is a boozy hot mess. The score is still glorious and tuneful. And for us South Floridians, there is the added thrill of watching one of our own, Davie’s Issie Swickle, play Annie with a relaxed confidence.
And basically, that’s all we get from the corpse of a once decent newspaper.  Oh, there is a video with the worst narration we’ve ever heard.
The national tour of Annie plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through October 19, 2014.

Slow Burn Theatre: The Marvelous Wondrettes (reviews)

The-Marvelous-WonderettesSlow Burn Theatre Company opened its production of The Marvelous Wondrettes in the intimate Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on October 2, 2014
This smash Off-Broadway musical sensation takes you to Springfield High School’s 1958 prom where you meet the Wonderettes: four girls with hopes and dreams as big as their crinoline skirts with amazing voices to match. This candy-coated romp back in time will knock your (bobby) socks off with ’50s and ’60s hits such as “Lollipop,” “Dream Lover,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Lipstick On Your Collar,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” “It’s My Party” and more than 20 other jukebox classics. You’ve never had this much fun at a prom and you’ll never forget this musical trip down memory lane!
Patrick Fitzwater directed a cast that featured Amy Miller Brennan, Lindsey Corey, Abby Perkins, and Julie Kleiner.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The Broward County Fair may not materialize this year, but fear not. A bountiful supply of sweet and tasty cotton candy (spiked with a bit of kick) is on hand at Slow Burn Theatre Company’s The Marvelous Wonderettes at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
From the opening number, the intricate harmony of “Mr. Sandman,” the actresses and Fitzwater capture that endearing delighted-to-be-performing-in-the-spotlight and simultaneous discomfort that comes from being afraid of doing something embarrassing
We could spend another ten minutes listing how each woman nails number after number, and the song list is exactly what you expect it to be. But it’s hard to overemphasize how the actresses, with Fitzwater and musical director Manny Schvartzman, make this piece work, first, with flawless vocals and then by playing the roles without a shred of winking. Their willingness to courageously inhabit the earnestness as naifs and later as chastened women elevates this show above so many similar pieces. First among equals is Kleiner who gets a trio of rue-filled numbers that are touching not comic: “I Only Want to Be With You,” “That’s When The Tears Start” and the essential “It’s My Party.”
…costume designer Rick Peña has faithfully recreated the period while teasing it unmercifully. All the girls are in poofy prom dresses in pastel sherbet colors in the first act, and sparkling mini-skirts and white go-go boots in the second. A nod, too, to Fitzwater for styling and cutting the outsized wigs that make a hilarious transition in the intervening decade.
Wonderettes kicks off an overhauled series at the Broward Center using the renovated Abdo New River Room. The space is still the multi-purpose room used until recently by the Laffing Matterz improve troupe. But it has lost that institutional flavor. It has been painted, the sound and lights have been noticeably upgraded, an array of lamps with assorted shades hang from the ceiling, a permanent bar is set into a wall, established, the tables and chairs for the cabaret seating seem nicer.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
The Marvelous Wonderettes has no more ambition than to amuse you. And that it does with toe-tapping success.
The cast, resplendent in sherbet-hued crinoline dresses, take the stage to sing at their prom. After they take a few swings at songs such as “Mr. Lee,” “Lollipop,” “Sincerely” and “Mr. Sandman,” the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it plot kicks in (something about somebody stole somebody else’s boyfriend and a prom queen election), but it’s hardly important.  What is important is that this cast can sing these songs well.
Amy Miller Brennan, Lindsey Corey, Julie Kleiner and Abby Perkins are all gifted comedians. It takes much charisma and stagecraft to pull off something so frothy, spinning the saccharine into sugar. Under the auspices of director and choreographer Patrick Fitzwater, these ladies gently bubble up emotional depth from bubblegum pop.
Ninety minutes and 33 songs after showtime, it’s all over. And you can’t believe how far you’ve come, how good those old songs sound (with a digital “band”) and how much acting actually took place.
Jack Gardner reviewed for EDGE Miami:
Presented as dinner theater, this jukebox musical from Roger Bean was a delight for all the senses: bouncy, nostalgia inducing tunes, sparkly glittery costumes and mouthwatering food. The opening night was a success and the rest of the run is likely to be as well.
Of course anytime you open up a program and see the name Amy Miller Brennan in the cast, you know that you're in for an evening of great singing and acting... Brennan's role as Cindy Lou in this current musical was almost tailor made for her and allowed her to show off her voice and talents throughout the two hour show. She bubbles and flits her way through the role as the bitchy wannabe prom queen/boyfriend stealer but ultimately good friend.
She was surrounded by a cast that is equally as talented. In the role of Suzy, Lindsey Corey gave us the bubble gum chewing klutz in the first act and a perfect pregnant mother in the second act. Julie Kleiner played Betty Jean, the tomboy of the group, to perfection and Abby Perkins played Missy, the peacemaker and oddball of the quartet.
All four women are stellar singers as soloists and managed to create a cohesive blend of their voices when singing together. Musically, The Marvelous Wonderettes was as sharp and slick as one could hope and really gave the audience the sounds that are so reminiscent of the great girl groups of the 1950's and '60s.
Nate Sykes wrote for The Shot Glass Review:
…Slow Burn has made quite a name for itself in the tumultuous South Florida theater scene. As one of only professional companies focused on musicals they have carved out a little niche in their home at West Boca High School. The Marvelous Wonderettes represents a major step forward for Slow Burn and a major boon for theater audiences east of I-95
The show opened with perhaps the prototypical 50s harmony hit, Mr. Sandman and everyone’s favorite candy coated ditty Lollipop. One of the early standouts of the evening was Allegheny Moon, performed as the first “solo” of the evening by Brennan... Perkins is charming and adorable as the group’s defacto organizer and resident bookworm and singing the candy sweet Secret Love she embodied the theme for this year’s prom: “Love”. Following the theme Suzy takes the mic to sing her little ode to cupid, the 1958 Connie Francis hit Stupid Cupid. Cory is a perky little gum chewing firecracker,kind of like a 1950s version of Cindy Brady.
Betty Jean (Kleiner), who always seems to be playing second fiddle boyfriend-stealing Cindy Lou gets her chance to shine with the songs I Only Want to be with You and That’s When the Tears Start.
Overall The Marvelous Wonderettes is a charming little show. The costumes Rick Pena evoke each of the two time periods perfectly. Whether it’s the 1950’s Butterick pattern dresses (with matching heels) or the sparkly 1968 go-go girls with high top boots and beehives Pea captures the feel and style of the period immediately.
Credited as both director and choreographer, Slow Burn founder Patrick Fitzwater kept the momentum moving throughout the show. As a somewhat interactive show, the actresses moved through the audience, occasionally finding a handy lap to sit in.
As a dinner theater food is of course an important element, and from the dishes I saw being paraded around the theater it all looks mighty tasty and  ranging in price $8-14. The table next to us was feasting on a trio of giant sliders, that could have easily encompassed a whole cow. Sadly due to time constraints we were unable to partake of the food, however the bar is quite reasonably priced as well (this is the Shot Glass Review after all). The other dinner theaters in the region should be put on notice, that this is the menu to beat.
The Slow Burn Theatre Company  production of The Marvelous Wondrettes plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through November 23, 2014.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Mondays are Dark

It’s a dry and refreshing 83 degrees out. If the break in the weather isn’t enough, the fact that there are so many stories this week should tell you that ‘The Season’ has begun.
News that hasn’t really hit print yet*: at the Marvelous Wondrettes opening, Slow Burn Theatre Company announced that next season they will be producing all of their shows in the Amaturo Theater at The Broward Center for Performing Arts.  That’s the same space that has hosted The Carbonell Awards the last few years.
And now for your Monday reading list:

Speaking of Broward Center
South Florida Business & Wealth Magazine (who knew?) calls the new Huizenga Pavilion at the Broward Center the “Jewel on the River.”
The Huizenga Pavilion echoes the design of the main building with its use of sand colored exteriors, red barrel tile accents and plenty of windows. It offers waterfront views on two levels with the 230-seat Porter Riverview Ballroom on the top floor. On the lower floor, Marti’s New River Bistro will offer modern American fare and indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the New River. The restaurant, which was scheduled to open Oct. 5, will have an open to the public pre-theater, pre-fix dinners before 8 p.m. Diners may also go on Open Table and make reservations for later in the evening.
All The World’s A Stage
And the Front Yard Theater Collective decided to put you on bikes to see it, according to WLRN.
In its latest play, the troupe performed its scenes at different locations in downtown Miami, and the audience rode on bicycles from one spot to another. It was called “History On Wheels.
Sorry we missed this one.
So… The World In A Box (or Ten?)
The Miami New Times takes a look at MicroTheater Miami, which closed their most recent event about a week ago.
Underneath a string of bulb lights are seven steel shipping containers covered with the faces of well-known artists. Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, and Salvador Dali all sit looking picturesque and inviting.
This, ladies and gents, is Microtheater Miami.
South Miami-Dade Takes Center Stage
The Miami Herald takes a look at the success of the four-year-old South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.  While the article deals primarily with their dance programs, SMDCAC has become the home for New Theatre and The M Ensemble.
Women in The Garage
The Broward/Palm Beach New Times reports that Theatre at Arts Garage’s third season  will consist entirely of plays by women.
"There's been a conversation around the country for some time now about the lack of opportunities for women playwrights," says Lou Tyrrell, artistic director at the theater. "So I thought it was time to, in our own small way, help to contribute to that conversation. And it was very easy, as it always is to me, to find three wonderful plays by gifted playwrights who happen to be women."
A New Catalogue
The Miami Herald fills us in on the creation of The Holocaust Theater Catalogue, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The catalog exists as a resource for anyone: scholars; students; teachers; producers; theater companies. The catalog has more than 550 titles and counting, most in English, some in Hebrew, with works in other languages still to come. The online listing doesn’t contain a play’s full script, but it provides the title, author’s name, his or her nationality and date of birth, a synopsis, a dramatic category or theme, character breakdown, original language, production history and contact information for the publisher and the person who holds the rights.
Sneak Peak and Stuff
Florida Theater On Stage reports that Island City Stage is opening some rehearsals for its upcoming production of POZ to public viewing – you can sit in and watch how it comes together (if you call ahead).  Also, Thinking Cap Theatre’s Halloween Party. 
In Which Mike Daisey Spends Too Much Time in Seattle
In this article in The Stranger, Mike Daisey visits Seattle and declares that theater in America has failed.
That dream is dead. The theaters endure, but the repertory companies they stood for have been long disbanded. When regional theaters need artists today, they outsource: They ship the actors, designers, and directors in from New York and slam them together to make the show. To use a sports analogy, theaters have gone from a local league with players you knew intimately to a different lineup for every game, made of players you'll never see again, coached by a stranger, on a field you have no connection to.
He makes some valid points; that a few decades ago, theater companies were formed with the mission to bring art to the masses while providing a living wage to the artists.  Many of those companies have failed (Florida Stage, and Caldwell Theatre Company, for example), while others became virtual road-houses (like Maltz Jupiter Theater seems to have done for some shows).   And a lot of what’s left simply doesn’t pay enough to live on.  Which segues perfect to the next story.
Thinking of Being an Actor?
Business Insider lays out the fiscal realities of the professional actor.
The financial and employment realities of professional acting make any semblance of a normal lifestyle difficult to sustain. The nature of the career and compensation mean putting other dreams on hold — especially ones that require a large financial investment, like home ownership or starting a family — unless of course you marry rich.
And marrying rich is no guarantee in this era of Pre-Nuptial Agreements.  Dammit.

* (Florida Theater On Stage mentions it at the end of their glowing review for The Marvelous Wondrettes)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Scene for October 3, 2014

October.  No matter what the weather is, you can’t deny it’s autumn when it’s October.
And the 2014-2015 Theatre Season is finally getting underway.  October is looking to be jam-packed with shows, so if you’ve been missing your theatre fix, your prayers are answered. 
Palm Beachers can get an extra helping of theatre by participating in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ Knowledge & Nibbles series, kicking off this Wednesday, October 8.  Have lunch at a local restaurant, then mingle with the cast and director of Our Town.
Here’s what’s playing on The Scene this week:
Slow Burn Theatre Company opens The Marvelous Wondrettes in the newly renovated Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through November 23.
Area Stage opens its production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee through October 12, 2014.

you still haven't missed...
Jamaica Farewell plays at Empire Stage through October 19, 2014.
GableStage presents its production of Terence McNally’s Mothers and Sons through October 19, 2014.
Broward Stage Door’s production of What’s New Pussycat has been extended through October 19..

coming and going...
The national tour of I Love Lucy Live on Stage plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through this Sunday October 5, 2014.
Sesame Street Live; Make A New Friend plays through Sunday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

community and conservatory...
Andrews Living Arts Studios presents Veronica’s Room through October 5, 2014.
Florida International University presents An Ideal Husband through October 5.
Spring Awakening awakens at The Main Street Playhouse, through October 12.
Florida Atlantic University present The Cherry Orchard in its Studio One Theatre through October 17.

for kids...
Miami Children’s Theatre opens Mulan, through October 30, 2014. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Arsht Center: I Love Lucy Live on Stage (5 reviews)

I-Love-Lucy-690x310The national tour of I Love Lucy Live on Stage opened at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on September 30, 2014.
It’s 1952 and you are a member of the studio audience awaiting the filming of two hilarious and oh-so-familiar I LOVE LUCY® episodes. Imagine stepping back in time onto the Desilu Playhouse soundstage where a charming host entertains and enlightens you to the behind-the-scenes filming process, the 1950s hi-fidelity technology and this brand-new thing called “television.” The episodes begin and you witness, firsthand, the side-splitting antics of that crazy redhead in the Ricardo’s New York apartment and thrill to the Cuban sounds of “The Ricky Ricardo Orchestra” at the famed Tropicana Nightclub. In-between scenes? The Crystaltone Singers perform live advertising jingles of the show’s newest sponsors in perfect '50s-style harmony. Can you say “Brylcreem?!”
Rick Sparks directed a cast that included Thea Brooks, Lori Hammel, Euriamis Losada, and Kevin Remington.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Don’t let the ® prominently displayed in the title fool you. There is little evidence of the irrepressible vitality and downright hilarity of Lucille Ball®, Desi Arnaz® or I Love Lucy® to be found in this reasonably well-intentioned, well-acted and well-produced offering.
That’s because Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were near geniuses and their iconic carefully-tailored show was lightning in a bottle that simply cannot be replicated or done justice with an affectionate homage. “Inimitable” means cannot be imitated. And nobody has ever successfully recaptured what Ball and Arnaz did. So it’s not remotely fair to ask such genuinely talented hard-working performers as Thea Brooks (Carnegie Mellon-trained) and Miami’s own Euriamis “E.L.” Losada to compete or be compared with ghosts still fresh in our memory.
Brooks is in there pitching the whole nine innings as Lucy Ricardo. She has obviously studied clips, so she has down cold the feigned crying jag (“Waaaah!”), the rubbery grimaces, the bright shining eyes and much of the comic timing. Her physical abandon and her voice are in the neighborhood if not perfectly on the mark. But she isn’t and can’t be Lucy who organically exuded a lovably hapless yet never-say-die plotting quality that’s just injected here.
Losada, who won two Carbonells before moving to L.A., was always handsome and engaging, but he has grown into his looks, and he is now a stunner. He exudes a warm charisma when he smiles at the audience and his fine singing voice does justice to “Babalu” among other numbers. The Cuban-born Losada bravely embraces Arnaz’s ego-free mocking of his Cuban accent (“We are happy to mit you.”) But we remember Losada’s fine performance as Edmund in New Theatre’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. This gig doesn’t tap a tenth of his acting chops, not even his comic talent.
Kevin Remington as the uber-curmudgeon William Frawley/Fred Mertz and Lori Hammel as the Thema Ritter-dry Vivian Vance/Ethel Mertz are also doing what they can, but they simply aren’t able to summon up the ghosts of these superb character actors or their characters.
In retrospect, I Love Lucy® Live On Stage isn’t a bad show, it doesn’t even feel exploitive, everyone’s trying. But you quietly keep asking all night why take up a slot in Broadway Across America’s season with this.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The reenactment of two actual episodes from the beloved 1950s television sitcom I Love Lucy is a delight. The new material — the patter of the warmup guy/announcer, live commercials for Halo shampoo and Chevrolet and such, a mini-hit parade and song-and-dance numbers — aims at pushing nostalgia buttons but comes off as pure filler. It’s as if writer-adapters Kim Flagg and Rick Sparks took a pair of precious pearls (the Lucy episodes) and placed them in a setting made of tin.
Sparks, who doubles as director, helps his key quartet of actors find the vocal and physical nuances that are vital to bringing the episodes to life. Under his guidance, all four find that sitcom groove, knowing when to exaggerate for comic effect and when to pull back.
Slender, charismatic and forever frustrated by the wife he obviously adores, Losada’s Ricky is an accomplished singer-actor-musician, and his strong Cuban accent (something Losada simulates perfectly) gets played for laughs. Vocally, Brooks doesn’t sound much like Ball, but she nails Lucy Ricardo’s mock crying, and she’s fabulous at physical comedy. Remington and Hammel shine when Fred and Ethel resurrect an old vaudeville routine for a producer, their thirst for the spotlight just as enduring as Lucy’s.
The idea of tapping into the enduring affection for I Love Lucy by having actors perform episodes written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. isn’t a bad one, particularly when the actors are as good as Losada, Brooks, Remington and Hammel, who rise to meet the challenges of the original material. But the new stuff isn’t witty, ironic or particularly enjoyable. It’s mundane, which is something I Love Lucy was not.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Broadway World:
I LOVE LUCY LIVE ON STAGE tries to replicate the experience of those old TV show shoots. Show runner Maury Jasper (Mark Christopher Tracy) warms up the audience, singers entertain during set and costume changes, and commercials are performed live---the life-size tube of Brylcreem and the tap-dancing Speedy Alka-Selzer mascot are goofy fun.
Period costumes, wigs and make-up help Lucy and Ethel look their parts, but that's about as deep as it goes. Ethel Mertz (Lori Hammel) for some reason has a southern accent, odd since Ethel is from Albuquerque. Thea Brooks gets a lot of things right as Lucy Ricardo---the signature expression when she's been caught in a scheme, the klutzy dance numbers, the horrible, off-key singing. But she lacks Lucy's vulnerability, the very thing that makes the TV audience love her so much. Brooks' portrayal of Lucy is fraught with an off-putting haughtiness that makes one wonder why Ricky puts up with her. Kevin Remington fares better as Fred Mertz, he looks and sounds like the curmudgeonly, vaudeville-loving landlord.
But the show belongs to Euriamis Losada. The Miami native was a popular and critically acclaimed actor, winning two Carbonell Awards for Best Actor in a Musical for BAT BOY and JEKYLL & HYDE, before he moved to Los Angeles several years ago. Not only does Losada play the real-life role of Local Boy Makes Good, but he nails the on stage role of Ricky Ricardo so precisely, it's as if he were channeling Desi Arnaz.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
It's not that it's a really bad show; it's big but it's lighter than cotton candy. Ever tried to chew that stuff?
It's a ninety minute one-acter with, unfortunately, no highlights. Euriamis Losada as Ricky Ricardo comes closest. He looks, talks and sings like the original and his Babalu is just terrific, but far too short. Much less of Mark Christopher Tracy as the Desilu Playhouse host who spends endless minutes on the hokie audience warmups and more on the Losada talent would be aces here
As for the two episodes being filmed live in front of us… well, they're kind of fun… for a while. But the old shticks are just that: old shticks. The leads try hard to emulate the originals, and Kevin Remington and Lori Hammel as Fred and Ethel Mertz do well. But Thea Brooks as Lucy doesn't quite make it. She's tall, she's slim, she moves well and has all the Lucy mannerisms but she lacks the innate humor of the original. She's acting and it's evident.
On the bright side: Brilliant costuming, excellent music from the six piece band.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for the Sun-Sentinel:
“I Love Lucy Live on Stage” never really says anything. Faithful re-creation is nice for a memorabilia convention, but if you’re going to call it “theater,” then you have to reveal some dimension. The musical-comedy has an opportunity when Ethel “accidentally” drops a line, Fred grumbles, and Lucy and Ricky move in with cool efficiency to set things straight. But the moment is never mined, evaporating into nothingness within seconds.
Interestingly, in this stage version, Ricky gets most of the laughs. The actor playing the part — Euriamis Losada — is from Miami, but that’s not it. He doesn’t push too hard, letting the material breathe. The audience on opening night ate it up like a TV dinner.

The national tour of I Love Lucy Live on Stage plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through October 5, 2014.