The Unexpected Guest

The Unexpected Guest
Onstage Atlanta
through November 13, 2016

Agatha Christie’s play is set in South Wales, at the Warwick’s manor. On a dark night a stranger runs off the road near the house and comes up to enter, only to find the Lord of the Manor dead in his wheelchair, and his wife, Laura (Emma Green) standing in front of him holding a gun. It would look like an obvious murder scene. Were it not one by Agatha Christie.

The dead chap was a sort of meanie who liked to shoot various animals as they passed by his French doors. We never get to meet the deceased, although we do meet his wife mother (Pat Bell), weird son (Dillion Everett), strange care-giver (John Coombs) and the constables.

It is one of those where clues keep coming into focus, suggesting that somebody is the killer. Then other clues show up, sort of in the nature a red herrings. The stranger, Mr. Starkwedder, (Brandon Michael Mitchell) gets deeply into the family matters as well as some intrigues.

Directed by Liane LeMaster and with a nice set by Harley Gould, the cast of 9 players pull you into the story with great aplomb. You think you have it figured out. But, . . . maybe you need to think through it again.

Full info, times and tickets at OnstageAtlanta.com


A Musical Promenade

A Musical Promenade
Georgia Symphony Orchestra

The GSO launched their new season at the Marietta Performing Arts Center under the baton of their new Music Director, Timothy Verville. The event was a delight in the way that the GSO blended music with other art forms.

They had a juried exhibition in the lobby with works by ten acclaimed local artists; and the performance by the orchestra was enhanced by the GSO Chorus, as well as projected images when they performed Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

The first half of the concert started off with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Procession of the Nobles, a short by easily remembered piece; and followed by another short work, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Danse nègre from his African Suite. They followed that with Manuel de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance from El amor brujo.

The second set featured three of Bernstein’s dance numbers, and in this piece they brought onstage some of the players from their jazz band so that they could have a jazz play-off as if they were in Harlem. The audience loved it.

The GSO is now in it’s 66th season and it continues to grow and enhance audiences. The GSO Jazz Octet under Sam Skelton. They will perform on November 5th at the Strand Theatre on the Square in Marietta. For more info on any of their upcoming concerts just visit them at GeorgiaSymphony.org


A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line
Lyric Theatre
through November 6, 2016

A Chorus Line with music by Marvin Hamlisch, was a smash hit when it opened in 1975 in NYC. It won many Tony Awards as well as a Pulitzer, and it was one of the longest running shows with more than 6,000 performances.

It is a show which obviously has a fan club, as well as millions of others who may have seen it once before. It is set on an empty stage in a theater in NYC where a couple of dozen dancers are trying out for parts in a new show. The Director, Zach (Logan Denninghoff), is calling out instructions to the group of dancers who are auditioning. After a few trials he cuts some of them, and then proceeds with the remaining dancers.

At some point each of the dancers tells his/her own story and motivation, as they hope to get the job. It is a show that presented in a stark fashion with no sets nor props. Just hopefuls doing their best, while some, including Cassie (Ashley Chasteen) lament their fortunes.

This production was choreographed by Nathan Lubeck and directed by Ricardo Aponte, who just happens to also be a fine choreographer. The dancing is great and a lot of very hard work and long minutes onstage for the dancers. There are some songs you will recall such as What I Did for Love, One, and the T&A number, Dance:10; Looks:3. They do have a full orchestra in the pit, under the baton of Paul Tate, and the finale with the glitter is spot-on.

The show runs about 2 hours with no intermission, at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre in Marietta. Nice facility, good seating, free parking, and easy to get to. For more info visit them at AtlantaLyric.com


Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Out Front Theatre
through November 6, 201

Out Front is a new theatre company styled as Atlanta’s LGBTQIA Theatre. Not sure Trump would figure out the acronym, but he is in favor of BLTs. But, before I plunge into any punny stuff, let me tell you that this is one incredible production with a fine cast, great costumes, full band on stage, and fine voices and choreography.

Priscilla started off as a film in 1994 and it won loads of praise, as it was right out front telling about some drag queens schlepping through the desert in Australia to get to Ayers Rock area, and how their bus, named Priscilla, breaks down, they meet up with some Aborigines, homophobes, and various sots along the way. The story gets movement from one of the queens who had been married and had a child, whom he’d not seen in years.

The musical is a delightful one with songs you will want to sing along or clap along with, such as I Will Survive, and many others. The facility is a black box theatre, so there are no expansive sets. The show is produced more like a cabaret, but is TOTALLY captivating.

The three drag queens are played by Justin Thompson, Robert Ray and Jason-Jamal Ligon. Michael Shikany plays Bob, the old guy mechanic who joins with them on the trip; and young Alex Hugg plays the son, Benji. What is really cool is that there are two dozen players, and more glitter than you would see at Macy’s for the holidays. Three divas who move the scenes along are Ally Duncan, Brianna Gilliam and Gia Nappo.

The idea of men coming onstage as women is hardly unique. In the days of The Bard every female role was played by a male; albeit probably not as well as some of these queens do. If this seems like an odd show to you, then be advised that it is not offensive, they’re not selling anything other than having respect for one another, and anybody can find total enjoyment in the story and the production.

Paul Conroy, who founded this new theatre has choreographed and directed the show and done a truly fine job. Bottom line is that if you want a really good few hours, with no political BS being spewed out at you, then go to their website and arrange tickets. More info at OutFrontTheatre.com


The Capitol Steps

The Capitol Steps
Rialto Theatre

One of the most timely and hilarious troupes ever to hit the boards, as well as being on the air with their contemporary musical commentaries, has done Atlanta the honor of performing once more at GSU’s Rialto Theatre.

And you KNOW that with all the political hogwash being spewed out at us 24/7, that they had no shortage of themes. Just consider the titles to a few of the numbers, such as The Leader is a Trump, Leader of the PAC and If There Were No Rich Men.

The current cast of this group has actually worked in DC in the offices of 11 Senators and 7 Representatives. As they say, most of whom have since been defeated or placed under investigation. Gee, . . . as the French would opine, “the more things change the more they stay the same.” And you know how to tell when a politician is lying. His lips are moving.

They’re not all bad, but they are great fodder for comedians. So few have the guts, or the ability, that Michelle and Barack have to go live into a schtick with Stephen Colbert.

You can check out The Capitol Steps on utube or listen to some of their numbers and have a good laugh. And when they next come to town, you know you MUST get tickets.

Next up at The Rialto will be a great dramatic dance company, Vertigo, which will be a one-nighter on October 22nd. More info and more upcoming special events are easy to research at Rialto.GSU.edu


The Abduction from the Seraglio

The Abduction from the Seraglio
Atlanta Opera

Mozart’s work must have been a really exotic sort of thing for opera fans in his days. He did derive this one from his ideas of what a Pasha’s life may have been like, and how women were treated in the harems of their palaces.

Originally in German, this version is sung both in German and partly in English, and the story line, as in many operas, doesn’t really run the show. It’s about music, voices, costumes and sets; and the set used by the Opera is quite unique in that it seems to be a picture frame with some projected images, but also some stage area where principals come and go.

Belmonte (Ben Bliss) shows up at the palace looking for his lady, Konstanze (Sarah Coburn) who was captured by some pirates and sold off to the Pasha along with her maid, Blonde (Katrina Galka) who were now owned by the ego-centric Trump-like Pasha Selim (Tom Key), who has become enamored of Konstanze although his affection is not reciprocated, even under duress imposed by the Pasha.

The Pasha’s security honcho is Osmin (Kevin Burdette) who kind of knows that something is afoot; he’s not sure what, but he denies entrance to Belmonte, and is watching his turf. Belmonte hooks up with an old servant of his, Pedrillo (Matthew Grills) who has some privileges as head gardener for the palace, with easy entry and exit therefrom.

The die is cast. Pedrillo and Belmonte decide to plan an escape from the palace with the two gals, and to head home to Europe. First problem is Osmin, but Pedrillo comes up with a scheme that might work. And part of the escape scene is sort of like Abbott and Costello.

The foursome doesn’t get away with it and faces tortuous deaths at the hand of the Pasha. But, fate works wonders. It seems the Pasha was victimized by a relative of Belmonte’s, and he gets the idea that one should not fight evil with evil, and all comes round in the end.

With stage direction by Chris Alexander and the orchestra under the baton of Arthur Fagan, it was a superb production, and one that is a true credit to our opera company and artistic director Tomer Zvulun.

Next up with the Atlanta Opera will be Silent Night, which is about the Christmas eve during WWI when there was a one-day truce by combatants who decided to celebrate together rather than shoot one another; even though their actions were not authorized nor approved. The production opens November 5, at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. For more info visit AtlantaOpera.org



Center Stage North
through October 22, 2016

Moliere is famous to this day for his plays where one door opens as another closes, and anything that can go awry seems to do so. His so-called French Bedroom Farces can be found playing around the world any day of the year.

He did stray off a bit in 1664, when he cast a central character as a phony religious figure. The Archbishop of Paris was so irate that he threatened to excommunicate anyone who went to the play or even read the script. It seems to be soooooo poignant today with all the political rubbish being thrown at us 24/7.

Orgon (Jeffrey Bigger) is a well-off chap with quite an estate and he has a daughter he wants to marry off to Tartuffe (Freddy Lynn Watson) who is the imposter living at Orgon’s home. Tartuffe isn’t quite the celibate you might expect. He has an eye for Orgon’s wife, Elmire (Karen Worrell) and comes on to her.

At the same time, Dorine (LeeAnna Lambert) is trying to help get the daughter out of being betrothed to the con artist, and knows she is in love with a younger chap. And things don’t get any easier when Madame Pernelle (Nancy Jensen) takes the stage as she is Moliere’s version of Hyacinth Bucket.

So we find lovers, fakers, and hypocrites coming center stage. Remind you of some family you know, or some of the candidates on the tube? Will everything come right at the end? You’ll have to find that out for yourself. For as I said on many an occasion if one were to look up the word “dysfunctional” in the OED, it should probably say “see family.”

Directed by Jenifer and Kevin Renshaw, the cast, costumes, set and technical aspects are all just fine, and this high energy rant is Jeffrey Bigger’s goodbye opus; as he leaves us after this one for Colorado to enjoy the snow. The theatre is easy to get to, has free parking, and every seat has a good view of the stage. More info at CenterStageNorth.org


The Ghastly Dreadfuls

The Ghastly Dreadfuls
Center for Puppetry Arts
through October 29, 2016

The Ghastly Dreadfuls, which was created by Jon Ludwig and Jason Hines, returned to the Center for Puppetry Arts once more in time for All Hallow’s Eve and a jolly good time for all. This one is for the more-or-less adults among us, and they say you should be old enough to buy booze if you wish to attend. It is a delightful cabaret and is NOT for the tykes.

The Dreadfuls are made up by Scott DePoy, Kristin Haverty, Jason Hines, Jon Ludwig, Spencer G. Stephens and Reay Kaplan. With a live band under direction of Robert Strickland. The actors/puppeteers go live on stage, and each of them handling roles in 15 skits featuring great puppetry, classic costumes, high stepping dancing, and wanna-sing-along musical numbers.

You may think that puppets are just for kids; and while the youngsters do enjoy visiting this Atlanta theatre and museum; this is one that is playing to full houses of adults and every one of them in the audience leaves having had a really enjoyable break from the political BS news of the day.

So, don’t be afraid to try something different and maybe just a bit eerie. When selecting seats, the better views are from rows C or higher, as some action takes place over the puppet set. You can read more and see times and tickets at puppet.org and buy online or by phone.


Freed Spirits

Freed Spirits
Horizon Theatre
through October 30, 2016

Halloween is soon upon us, and quite a few venues are offering up some scary stuff; but this one is quite a bit different. The play by Daryl Lisa Fazio is set in Atlanta at the Oakland Cemetery; and while I don’t like to give away plot twists, just know that these actors are not in stage just to scare you.

We meet up with Susan Dickey (Suehyla El-Attar) who you may know as a winning playwright, but here she’s on the boards, or the grass, as somebody who’s digging into the facts and history of the Cemetery, especially after the tornados struck it in 2008.

The Cemetery is the oldest around here, founded in 1850 before the War Between the States, and it was originally on 6 acres but grew over the years to the current 48 acres it spans these days. Dickey meets up with a strange gal, M.J.(Bryn Striepe) who is also into the history of the Cemetery as well anybody she happens to meet up with. We don’t really get her situation at the outset. Dr. Finch (Marguerite Hannah) is working her way around restoring some damage, and she’s disinclined to get into a lot of the tings of interest to others. But, there is one guy snooping around, the photographer, Byron (Jonathan Horne) who’s kind of interested to find out if there are supernaturals visiting, and if so, who they may be.

The show is staged on a magnificent set by Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, and directed by Lisa Adler. I assure you that as the show moves into Act II, you will not quite know what the plots in the plot produce.

It’s not your usual trick or treat show, and is very well done. More info at their website, HorizonTheatre.com


Evil Dead

Evil Dead – Musical
Out of Box Theatre
through October 30, 2016

This camped up musical based on the old film version, hit the stage in Canada and started going around the world, in the style of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

This is one of the most prodigious productions at this small local theatre in Marietta. Under the direction of Zip Rampy, a cast of nine players pull off the story of 5 college students who head off into the woods to a vacant cabin for a holiday; and where all hell literally breaks loose.

Jack Allison plays Ash, the group leader, and he has to deal with the macho-man, Scott (Jim Dailey) who has a one-track mind relating to his girlfriend. MK Penley, Kristin Storla and Lisa Hatt are the female leads, and they can be pretty gruesome. Trevor Perry is a riot as a local, Jake, who gets involved although he would have preferred not to; and Daniel Pino is a ghostly type who gets killed except he just doesn’t get too into it.

There are some really cool scenes where people may lose their heads, or a hand, and the lyrics can be enough to make Ms. Prim lose her cool. So know that there is an abundance of expletives, and this probably is not for the wimps, prudes, or kiddies. But, with All Hallowed’s Eve soon upon us, it is a fine preparation for the trick part of the usual demand when the doorbell rings. Just hope the callers are not necronomicons.

Out of Box is located on Cobb Parkway near the Big Chicken. Lots more info and tickets at OutOfBoxTheatre.com