22
Aug

Joe M. Turner

Joe Turner
Joe M. Turner
Chief Impossibility Officer!

If you;’ve never seen this gentleman, then you’d find it hard to believe that a chap who was graduated summa cum laude with majors in physics and chemistry, and who has worked as a corporate development officer for some major firms; would wind up on stage doing card tricks, reading your mind and performing illusions that would bend your mind.

But, magic and the associated fields are what has been his love in life and he has merged them with his scientific background and his business experience to become an a-list candidate for many corporate events around the world. I’ve worked many trade shows and meetings and I can assure you that he can grab your attention and hold it firmly in his grip, where none of the usual blah-blah-blah presenters would.

He recently appeared in Marietta’s New Theatre in the Square. The crowd went wild, and a good time was had by all. The kiddies in the audience were thirsting after the schtick to see how they would wind up, as the adults who’ve seen it all, wondered why Joe was so much better than they had hoped for. He’s right up there with performers such as David Copperfield and Penn and Teller. Just doesn’t have the props they do.

You can easily google him or just visit youtube to watch some bits. But, if you see him being on stage around town, you just have to get to the show; as it will blow you away.

He styles himself as a magician, mentalist and speaker. And he’s first rate in all.

Next up at the New Theatre in the Square will be Hamlet which open September 29, with an unusual cast. Their website is TheatreInTheSquare.net

20
Aug

Shrek, the Musical

Shrek
Shrek, the Musical
Lyric Theatre
through September 4, 2016

You’ve seen Shrek, the ogre, in one form or another; whether in book, film, or on TV or stage. And while it is a story that may be aimed at younger folks, it never fails to appeal to the kids within us; as we watch what Shrek and Fiona go through in life and recall our own roads we’ve traveled.

David Lindsay-Abaire who brought us quite a few good plays, including Rabbit Hole, crafted this one and tossed in some puns along the way. Ryan Everett Wood comes on just great as the ogre. And, as Kermit would tell you, it isn’t easy being green.

Princess Fiona (Randi Garza) hasn’t had such a great life, either. Like Shrek, her parents haven’t been the most caring and she’s been locked away like a Repunzel. Lord Farquaad (be careful in pronouncing that one) is a despotic piece of work, whose aims in life may be beyond his stature. He’s played to the hilt by Vatican Lokey.

And while Shrek may think he is smarter than some dumb-ass donkey (Quentin Avery Brown) he benefits greatly from the guidance and help of that critter as the tale unfolds.

But they’re not the only cartoon characters in this one. You’ll enjoy seeing Pinocchio, witches, blind mice, three bears, fairy godmother, and others. And, of course, Farquaad has his corp of guards who remind one of Tin Men. The story is of desires, lusts, and since it is a fairy tale, all must come out right in the end; and nobody, not even a Gingerbread Man suffers.

Directed and choreographed by Chase Todd, the costumes, staging and dance numbers are first class. And they do have some great puppetry work when the wanna-be nasty dragon comes on stage in Act II. It is a huge prop that reminds one of some of the work in Lion King. The music is recorded and perfectly managed so that it comes off as if a full orchestra was in the pit. Everything is spot-on as to appearance, timing and production values.

Performances run Thursdays through Sundays, with 8pm shows weekdays and a 2pm matinee on Sundays. The running time is about 2.5 hours, so if you are thinking of bringing the young tots, consider the Sunday shows. More info and tickets at AtlantaLyric.com

15
Aug

The Bonaventure Quartet

bonaventure-quartet
The Bonaventure Quartet
Sundays on the River Concerts
at Chattahoochee Nature Center

Local folks looking for a really pleasant Sunday evening in the Roswell area, just mosey on over to the Chattahoochee Nature Center on Willeo Rd, where they can bring their picnic, relax and enjoy a concert on the open air. There are reserved seats under cover, and each is close to the stage; and there is also lawn seating available so you can just bring a comfy chair.

In the summer months they present a concert each month, and this week they welcomed the Bonaventure Quartet. The “quartet” of 6 or more players was created by Charles Williams who is on guitar and has also composed some of the numbers they run through.

Much of their work comes off as a paean to the works of Django Reinhardt, and you will be keeping time with the score and quietly singing along to the numbers by Cole Porter and some other oldies.

They were joined by Amy Pike, who has great pipes and you could feel her affection for each one of the numbers that she sang.

The concerts run from 7 to about 9, so you can watch the sun go down as well as the temperature.

They also had an opening act, which was Dusty’s Ragtime. Dustin Cottrell on the keys and singing, took the audience back to the days of some great ragtime numbers and got the blood flowing for the main event.

These are one-nighters, so you may want to mark your calendar for September 11th, when the Montana Skies will be in concert at the Nature Center. For more info and tickets visit them at ChattNatureCenter.org

14
Aug

The Fantasticks

Fantastics
The Fantasticks
Act 3 Theatre
through August 27, 2016

It’s hard to believe, but this work is more than fifty years old and has incredible legs, running more times than any other so-called musical shows.

It is said to be derived from Rostand’s Les Romanesques, but also reminds one of the Bard and the Montagues and Capulets. And it really is a play within a play. It is most often performed on a very stark stage, with few props, and 2 or 3 musicians and a cast of 8 players, one of whom is a mute.

In this production, directed by Zip Rampy, the show is put forward by Jody Woodruff as El Gallo, a conniving actor/producer/etc. El Gallo is styled as The Narrator. And the story is about a couple of gents who are neighbors. One has a son, the other a daughter, and they want the kids to fall for one another. So what’s a parent to do? They say NO WAY and they build a wall between their properties and families.

But what’s a kid to do? Climb that wall, of course; and the tale goes on. Luisa (Meg Harkins) is a 16 year old coming into herself, and Matt (Aaron Hancock) is now a 20 year old alleged adult. Except neither of them is particularly worldly.

Joel Rose is Matt’s dad, and Chris Davis is Luisa’s. They figure out how to run a scam on the kids to make Matt come off as a hero. And El Gallo brings in a couple of troubadours who will try to pass themselves off as abductors of a piratical nature. Evan Hussey and Mickey Vincent are the ones who pop out of the trunk.

The score is certainly not like big-scale musicals such as Show Boat, or Oklahoma. It is more a cabaret style and the one tune most will recall is Try to Remember. It was originally sung by Jerry Orbach and has since been recorded by a host of others. The rest of the numbers may be less memorable to most viewers.

Young Sarah Carroll is the mute, who brings to mind the old advice to an actor to never share a stage with a child nor a dog. They steal the focus, and she is really cute. The cast does a good job, with two players on keyboards and nobody dies in this one; and true love finds it’s way to the youngsters.

For more info and tickets visit them at Act3Productions.org

13
Aug

The Credeaux Canvas

credeaux images
The Credeaux Canvas
Out of Box Theatre
through August 20, 2016

This work by Keith Bunin hit the boards 15 years ago and garnered mixed reviews, albeit seems to have legs and was a daring choice for this local theatre group.

Stories of art forgeries are always around, whether a phony piece in The Louvre, or even in a local museum here. Forgeries and art heists are good reading and playing.

A yet to be discovered artist, Winston (Daniel Carter Brown) is living in a small flat in New York with a gent named Jamie (Matthew Busch) who is a not-so-great real estatenik. Jamie’s dad has passed on, and it seems that he’s been written out of the will. But, his father was an esteemed art dealer and Jamie thought he could perhaps interest one of his posh collectors to be interested in a painting by the under-appreciated Jean-Paul Credeaux.

Winston gets conned into abetting Jamie’s scheme to create a phony Credeaux, in a different genre than that artist’s prior works. So, instead of still life, he goes for the nude. It isn’t too hard to find a model, since he is involved with Amelia (Emily Sams) who is a former waitress and actor-in-waiting sans job.

As the plot proceeds the work is finished. As a former art dealer I can assure you it could never have passed; but the point is that they try, then fail, then seek to go on. Most of us understand that routine.

In Act II the collector, Tess (Mary K. Shaw), shows up at their dump of a flat, which is not exactly where Jamie wanted to display the painting to her. Tess is no fool. She examines the work closely, deduces some private information about the nude in the painting. Of course, the last thing the guys wanted was to have Amelia show up and maybe be identified as the model.

There are relationship problems between Amelia and Jamie, and Winston and Amelia, which help to make things even more difficult. Things go awry and loud confrontations ensue.

The set works easily, and Topher Payne has brought together a perfect cast who give it their all. Topher is best known as our star playwright in Atlanta and he excels at anything he undertakes.

There is frontal nudity, male and female, and some language which might offend some Ms. Prims. And when you may think that the climax of the show has occurred; stay seated for there is a denouement that we may not have seen coming, and may not really add much.

A very well staged production at a venue easy to get to, free parking, and comfortable seating. For times and tickets visit OutOfBoxTheatre.com

10
Aug

IF / Then

if then
IF / THEN
Fox Theatre
through September 14, 2016

IF/THEN is a fast moving musical with music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. The show premiered in 2014, had a run of about 400 performances, garnered several Tonys and possibly closed at a loss.

In this touring production the lead of Elizabeth is played by Jackie Burns. She’s a woman in her 30’s who has just survived a divorce and moves to New York to find herself. And therein lies the plot. For when she is playing as Beth, she is her old self, an urban planner. Her old friend, Kate (Tamyra Gray) suggested she follow the career path when she introduced her to Lucas (Anthony Rapp) who is a community organizer.

But later she seeks the road not before traveled. She is Liz, seeking romance. That was where and the roads diverge, ala These Woods I Know . . . We don’t know where this is going. For Beth is on the professional ladder and climbing up, Liz is more into messing with Josh (Matthew Hydzik) a returning soldier, and Anne (Janine DiVita). Nothing seems to work out as one might expect.

When the show opens it is a very stark set which looks like an elevated walkway and nothing on stage level. And while the set may seem that way, it actually works very well as it moves in and out and around to be various offices and flats, and the rear screen projections, which are now so often used, really bring the stage to light. The costumes are just average street wear, and the music is somewhat intriguing; but I doubt you will leave the theatre humming any of the tunes, nor recalling the lyrics except a few lines from numbers such as I Hate You and WTF.

It isn’t a show for the kiddies or Miss Prim, and if you have a hearing problem you need to be advised that many of the 22 numbers are quite fast paced and loud. It isn’t like the grandmother’s musicals with crooners stage center. It’s often yelling to a score. Some of the viewers thought it was more of a chick gig, as the women more easily related to the principal character trying to find herself. It is sort of a paean to the concept that life is what happens as we wait for our plans to work out.

More info and tickets at FoxTheatre.org

31
Jul

In The Heights

Heights
In The Heights
Aurora Theatre
through August 28, 2016

You may have heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose play, Hamilton, walked off with most of the Tonys this year. He also created In The Heights which also won several awards, and this production is a tribute to the story he tells, as well as the story of the company involved in this production.

Washington Heights is a neighborhood in Manhattan which, like many we know of, has gone evolved through ethnic changes. It’s may be kind of like a West Side Story, except it is not about street gangs. Maybe a little like Calle Ocho de Miami, where we have a carnaval del barrio each March.

This is a co-production with the Theatrical Outfit, and it will play intown later this year. It makes so much sense to have two good companies join together to share the costs of a great set by Shannon Robert, and also allow the cast of 27 players to hit the boards again. Sort of a localized touring production. And, maybe one day soon we’ll have a group like this getting booked into other cities in nearby states.

Ann-Carol Pence is the music director and on the keyboard with eight more players, just off-stage. There is a LOT of incredible choreography designed by Ricardo Aponte, and the prodution is directed by Justin Anderson. It is an ultra-high energy show, that makes you feel exhausted even though they are doing all the work.

While there are 24 numbers in the show, it isn’t like Cats where you leave the theatre humming the tunes. It’s more like being at an opera with no super-titles, albeit most of the lyrics are en Inglis. This is a treat for the eyes, the ears, and the soul; for the real story line is not about a student who takes a lapse year from Stanford, or a father who would sell his business to help get her back through college, nor about a chica who gets involved with a really nice hombre negro.

It is about you and all of us, and how we all reap the benefits when we accept one another and join forces to make meaningful lives and communities. It’s a show that many politicians should be forced to attend.

Every member of the cast is just spot-on. You will love it. It is playing to sold out houses, so visit their website for more info and tickets. AuroraTheatre.com

30
Jul

Dispossessed

Dispossessed
Dispossessed
Essential Theatre
through August 28, 2016

The Essential Theatre has been dedicated to presenting new works by Georgia playwrights for the past 17 years, and they are a valuable asset in our theatre community. Currently playing at the West End Performing Arts Center they are staging the world premiere of Dispossessed by Karen Wurl.

It is set in New York in the 1920’s when Yiddish theatre flourished with performers such as the Thomashefskys and Molly Picon. We meet a theatre group in rehearsals for their production about a young woman about to be married, and not quite into the act. It is based on the Yiddish play, The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds.

Marc Gowan is the father of the bride to be, in the play within a play, as well as the play itself. So you may get a wee bit confused. But, as the head of the family of performers, he wants his daughter, Rivka (Amelia Fischer), to marry Natan (Jake Krakovsky) who plays the role of the lover in the play and play within. He’s important; as the father wants him in the business to help build audiences.

The mother, Chavelle (Kathleen McManus), is right out of The Goldbergs. She’s the type who knows what you want and tells you what you want to do. Then we meet up with the spirit, Leah (Alyssa Caputo), who provides some input to Rivka’s assessment of her rights and obligations. It wasn’t easy for the young woman in those days.

Directed by Peter Hardy, the cast of nine players pull off a very engaging performance. This fine script is the Essential Playwright co-prize winner for this year, and one that every member of the cast and crew can be proud of. Hopefully it will get to play to bigger houses in years to come. There are Yiddish terms in the script but you don’t have to be Jewish to understand what is being said. Bottom line is this one is a winner in many ways.

The venue is on Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, easy to get to, free parking and good seating for the small stage. This show will run in repertory with it’s co-winner, When Things Are Lost, so check dates and times easily at their website, EssentialTheatre.com

29
Jul

Company

Company
Company
Actor’s Express
through September 11, 2016

Stephen Sondheim broke some barriers almost 50 years ago when he did the music and lyrics for a musical which wasn’t the usual sort of story line or revue show. When it had it’s first season in NYC it won 7 Tonys. And it has been a standard ever since.

Actor’s Express has done a great job creating a new set for the show in their facility. It is performed with seating on 3 sides of the stage and a live band at the back of the stage. The cast of 14 players come on as a single guy, Robert (Lowrey Brown), who lives in New York and isn’t all that interested in a permanent relationship. Robert, a/k/a Bobby, is having his 35th birthday and 5 couples who are his friends show up to celebrate and bring him a cake.

The tune, Bobby, is used multiple times as the couples come and go and the scenes change. The story line is somewhat blasé, and the time changes are not that important. Bobby does see some women; and in Act II actually gets into it with a flight attendant, April (Kelly Chapin Martin), who has to decide if she wants to take off for Barcelona or stay in NYC with Bobby. Because, as you would expect, he decides that he is tired of the solitary life, and while the friendly couples may yearn for some of the freedoms that he has; he sees the benefits of being together with a caring partner.

Probably the best numbers, and the ones that we all recall are Side by Side, which deals with being with another, Being Alive which is belted out by Bobby when he finds love, and the one about Ladies Who Lunch, which was done to a such a happy crowd by Libby Whittemore. That’s the number that Barbra always did so well, although I don’t think she ever played the role of Joanne.

Freddie Ashley directed this one and it is VERY well done. Alli Lingenfelter is the music director and is on keyboard. In a time when all the political garbage is being tossed at us 24 hours a day, this is a welcome relief. Easy to get to, plenty of parking, and a comfortable venue. This is a solid 10. Their website is at Actors-Express.com

28
Jul

Miss Saigon

miss saigon
Miss Saigon
Serenbe Playhouse
through August 14, 2016

Miss Saigon is a somewhat adaptation of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly moved from Japan to Vietnam and the 1970’s as the Vietnam War draws to an unacceptable end. Many of us may recall the remaining Americans from the Embassy being airlifted off the roof by choppers, as the streets were not passable under control of the People’s Army.

The play was crafted by the same folks who brought us Les Miz, and also deals with people fighting off despair and destruction in hopes of finding a better life. The award winning production has played in huge facilities around the world, and the highlight was the helicopter coming in onstage in Act II. Not a real one, just a fantastic prop. And it was the main thing that most viewers stored in their memory banks.

It was on a small Norwegian island that a theatre company staged the play in the open air, and used a real helicopter. This may have been an inspiration for Brian Clowdus and his associates to bring this to life at Serenbe.

Let’s just say the story is about some GIs who have flings with working girls in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and how true love doesn’t always work out quite the way one may wish. I don’t want to spill the beans as to some of the plot twists. Because you won’t see it coming until it gets to you.

Serenbe is down south of the Airport, and you can get maps from their website. Their production is staged in a field with rows of chairs facing a one-set stage which is basically a rice paddy. There are some really good costumes and dance moves, and while you never see them, there is a full live orchestra behind the 19 actors. Audio and lighting are no problem. Just hope it doesn’t rain during a performance.

We meet Kim, a young woman who gets sucked into working for a hustler and pimp dealing with the GIs. Niki Badua is terrific as Kim, and Eymard Cabling is the character-within-a-character called “The Engineer” who will say and do anything to get what he wants. Oops. . . . Maybe he should have run for office.

The GI named Chris (Chase Peacock) gets hooked on Kim and in deeply. The story is one that is very stressful. It is not for the kiddies, as they won’t get the historical connections; and could also be tough for some who lived through the war in Nam. You have to salute Brian Clowdus for having the guts to take this one on. The music is good, if not the type that you leave a theatre humming; and the voices are strikingly good.

If you’ve not been to Serenbe before, make sure you plan your visit with due consideration for the rush hours traffic on our highways. There are fast food places nearby, and places to eat in Serenbe. Be aware that this is out in the open. You drive in on a dirt road, park in a field, walk over to the amphitheatre on a dirt path, and enjoy the evening. One suggestion is to bring a small flashlight with you, as you want to watch your step when time to leave.

It may not be for everybody, but it is a truly well done presentation and a real experience. You feel as if you just got back to the States when you leave. Much more info and tickets at SerenbePlayhouse.com