11
Nov

West Side Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Side Story
Atlanta Opera
through November 11, 2018

If you can handle the cold, get over to Cobb Energy Center for this final performance of West Side Story by our Atlanta Opera. I know you think of it as a musical play, but they have done other operas in English such as Pirates; and they are doing a spectacular job. This is a co-production with the Houston Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Glimmerglas Festival in Cooperstown, NY.

You have seen West Side Story before, and it is kind of a spin-off from Romeo & Juliet. But, you’ve not seen it in quite this staging, directed by Francesca Zambello. A fabulous set, a great cast of 33 singers, actors, and dancers draw you in to the possible problems in NYC in 1957 between the Jets and the Sharks and their claim to their hoods.

It is a common practice for an opera to include some ballet scenes; but this one is over the top in that department. Tony (Andrew Bidlack) falls for that lovely senorita Maria (Vanessa Becerra). But, like the current film about Crazy Rich Asians, her family feels he is NQOT (Not quite our type) and therein lies the problem which ignites a bigger one.

Every aspect of this performance is wonderful. You could catch any opera in NYC, London or elsewhere, and it could not possibly be better. Thank you Tomer Zvulun for opting to stage this one. Unlike some Wagnerian operas, presentations such as this, or Carmen or La Boheme are more likely to bring in new patrons. We salute you all !!!

Keep up to date on them at AtlantaOpera.org

10
Nov

The View Upstairs

 

 

 

 

The View Upstairs
Out Front Theatre

Come back to a night in June 1973, in New Orleans. The gay community often met up at the Upstairs Lounge in the Vieux Carré . But those were days when there was a lot of anti-gay activity in NOLA, and the local police were quite corrupt. And when the building went down as a result of arson, they never determined who had done it, nor how. But, there’s a saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It was just 2 years ago that a gay club in Orlando was attacked. And just this past week, some creep shot up a dozen people in California, less than 10 days after the attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh; and there are sooooo many more. It has also been stated that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. That was George Santayana in 1896. Well, that’s life; but is it the life we want and need?

It was extremely timely that Out Front chose to stage this southeastern premiere here and now. The show is done as a musical. Books, music and lyrics by Max Vernon and directed by Paul Conroy. Nick Silvestri handles the music and a cast of ten players pour their hearts and souls into the story of Wes (Kyle Larkins), a fashion designer who gets involved in the club and himself when he acquires the building after the fire. The time gets a bit askew as the fire is in 1973 and a lot of the action is present day. But, therein lies the story.

If only we could all recall that we are all human and entitled to the same love, respect and support; regardless of color, faith, sexual orientation, or other attributions. Thank you Paul, for bringing this to us at this time.

Be sure to follow Out Front online at OutFrontTheatre.com

8
Nov

Not About Heroes

 

 

 

 

Not About Heroes
Aris Theatre
through November 18, 2018

If we think that days of war are something that may soon end, or be past, then do not watch the news or read about recent history in various countries around the world. In this work by Stephen MacDonald, we meet two gents who are serving in the army in WWI.

Siegfried Sassoon (Eric Lang) has been sent back fro the front to be “treated” at Craiglockhart Hospital for his shell shock condition. In days of yore we had not diagnosed this as PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; albeit in our nation we have hundred of thousands of people with PTSD, many of whom served in our armed forces.

Siegfried had written poems protesting wars as being evil and unjust, and he was thought to be a coward for doing so. To shut him down he was sent home to the hospital. It was there that he met a younger chap, Wilfred Owen (Chris Harding), who had suffered a head injury from a bullet when in the trenches. Owen and Sassoon had almost nothing in common, other than an attachment to poetry; yet they became fast friends. Owen went back to the front after being classed as able, and was lost in battle.

If you recall your history lessons, you may know that WWI ended with a Declaration of Armistice on November 11, 1918. It was a day celebrated in many countries, and we now know it as Veterans Day after President Eisenhower had the name changed in 1954. Regardless; it is a day of remembrance not just of those who came home with badges and medals, but of the far greater number who never came home. In WWI there were tens of thousands lost in the trenches, just as we lost a huge number on the beaches on D-Day.

A very poignant aspect of this production is that the characters are real, and the poem by Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth, is actually the one he wrote, and the message is not lost for us these days, 100 years post armistice. For it is not marches, flags and bands that we need to recall but the sacrifices of those who stood their ground.

The show is performed at 7 Stages and more info and tickets at: ArisTheatre.org

6
Nov

2018 Suzi Bass Awards

 

 

 

 

2018 Suzi Bass Awards

The polls are closed and the votes have been counted!

The Suzi Bass Awards held a splendid event at Oglethorpe’s Conant Performing Arts Center, with hundreds of folks and fans from our theatre community sharing the anticipation and the excitement of this high society evening.

Actor’s Express cleaned the rack winning 11 Suzi’s, four of which were based upon their production of Angels in America. And the Aurora Theatre pulled in 6. Theatrical Outfit, the Alliance and Horizon also scored well. It was especially cool to see Syncronicity, a small company winning two Suzi’s and Serenbe Playhouse as well as Center for Puppetry Arts coming home with awards.

If you are more a fan of musicals then drama, then you would love that The Color Purple came away with 6 Suzi’s, while The Hunchback of Notre Dame won 4. The other winners were Tarzan, Cabaret, Candide and Always…Patsy Cline.

As noted above, Angels in America won 4 Suzi’s for best plays while sharing the stage with Abigail/1702, Citizens Market, The Life and Death of Richard the Second, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, The Christians, Project Dawn and Sheltered.

How may of them did you get to see?  If you answered 6 or more then we salute you. For the things which makes a community a leader are transportation, education and cultural arts. Gladly, Hartsfield-Jackson is at the top of the list, many of our schools are doing well and growing, and we are fortunate to have a very vital theatre community. A night out is a lot more entertaining than watching politicians on the tube.

5
Nov

Straight

Straight
Out of Box Theatre
through November 10, 2018

Straight is a one act play by Scott Elmegreen and Drew Fornarola, and features a cast of two guys and one gal working through some difficult personal relationships.

Matthew Busch directs the show, where you meet Ben, a 26 year old dude who digs beer and sports and more. Ben is played by Jake West. Ben has a girl friend, Emily (Jessica Claire) who is a lab scientist working on genetic invenstigations. Emily and Ben have a warm but not quite loving relationship at the start.

In fact, at the start, Ben has a visitor, Chris (Dillion Everett) who also has some feelings for Ben and they become intimate in front of the audience, but keep some of their clothes on so you don’t have to totally freak out.

Are Ben and Chris to become a couple, or might Ben and Emily emerge as one; and that is what the tale is about. There are benefits and problems with either one for Ben, and he has to work his way through them.

The show runs about an hour and forty five minutes, and there are a couple of scenes where you may think it’s over; but as Yogi always said, It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.

More info at OutOfBoxTheatre.com

3
Nov

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti
Georgia Ensemble Theatre
through November 11, 2018

Jacques Lamarre created this one-woman play from the memoir by Giulia Melucci published in 2009. It is presented at Geogia Ensemble Theatre in Roswell with Jenny Levison on stage for two acts running a total of about 2 hours.

The unique stage setting is Giulia’s kitchen in Brooklyn, and there are even some patrons sitting onstage and being served by her as she goes through the tale of her life’s travels, and cooks for her guests while doing so. It’s one thing to know how to make spaghetti from scratch, without just opening a box and dumping it into some boiling water; but quite another when you have to remember every line in two hours of performance. But, Jenny steps up to the plate, literally, with her experience both in theatre and having started Souper Jenny’s almost 20 years ago and building it onto 5 facilities as of now.

Rachel May has brought the production together as Director, and with some great props and set, you are brought right into her kitchen, as she recalls her experience and rants about her problems in finding the right guy at the right time.

Yes, there are some expletives, but the show is easy of the eyes and ears for pretty much anybody over the age of puberty. One actor gigs are not easy to pull off, for the actor nor the audience; but this one does the job with great aplomb.

More info at GET.org

17
Oct

School of Rock

School of Rock
Fox Theatre
through October 21, 2018

For some of us old-timers, it may be hard to conceive that Andrew Lloyd Webber created this one. It isn’t a Cats or Phantom, and unless you can just keep singing Stick It to the Man, you aren’t going to leave the theater humming the tunes. This is quite different, in that it is all about kids and rock music. If rock isn’t your genre, you may be a bit concerned in the opening scenes; but hang in as things get much better as the story develops.

If you have seen the film or know the story, it’s about a rock musician whose career has yet to take off, and how he grabs a strange opportunity to make something of, and for, himself at a posh prep school. And that is where the real action takes place, as he turns those bored kids into a rock group that rocks the town.

Merritt David Janes is on stage throughout the play as Dewey, the rock loser. He carries the load of keeping things on the track as he is onstage with a dozen young players, who are actually hitting the keys and strumming the tunes they work through; even though an orchestra is in the pit to fill in other music. They work through 20 scenes and quite a few numbers, and energy may be what it is all about.

It does bring to mind why so many actors never like to share the stage with animals or kids. These youngsters are an incredible delight, and the audience goes ape for them as they win a big competition in the final scene.

So, knowing it isn’t all a sing-along type of show, it is one that youngsters and oldsters with a love of rock will thoroughly enjoy. And even if you aren’t a rock fan, you can enjoy the story as all comes out well in the end. More info at FoxTheatre.org

14
Oct

Dance Theatre of Harlem

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance Theatre of Harlem
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center

Great thanks must go out to our Atlanta Ballet for helping to bring the Dance Theatre of Harlem back for some spectacular perfomanances here. Sad to say that the dancer who started the company, Arthur Mitchell, passed away just last month, after a career of more than 50 years in ballet. And this is a celebration of his work, as well as of the 50th year for the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Virginia Johnson directs with a dance company of 17 who worked through some exciting numbers on Saturday evening and again at their Sunday matinee. On Saturday they opened with the ballet New Bach, which is danced to Bach’s violin concerto in A minor. The whole company takes part in the three movements. After a short break they presented Gustav Mahler’s Adagietto No. 5 featuring Yinet Fernandez, Anthony V. Spaulding, II, and Anthony Santos in a captivating number for the trio of dancers.

A different type of number then came on the stage as Change, which had it’s world premier just two years ago. It is three women who are determined to help change the way things were and/or are. Amanda Smith, Daphne Lee and Ingrid Silva dance to the music; and upstage the Spelman College Glee Club of more than 30 members sings some traditional music that further enhances the performance and the social issues therein.

The final number, Vessels, was premiered just 4 years ago and takes one through what may be a circle of life in the four movements of Light, Belief, Love and Abundance. The first three movements feature fewer than 6 dancers, while the final movement brings the entire company to stage.

Alas, the engagement here was a short one; but truly excited and pleased every person in the audience. If you see them coming back in the future, this is one you will not want to miss. More info at DanceTheatreOfHarlem.org

13
Oct

The Graduate

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Graduate
Act3 Playhouse
through October 28, 2018

If you saw the film where Anne Bancroft seduces Dustin Hoffman, then you will really dig the play, and want to sing along with Simon & Garfunkel’s tune. Act3 has redesigned their stage and it is working quite well.

Caveat: this is NOT for kiddies or Ms. Prim, as it contains what we now refer to as “adult themes.” Benjamin (Aaron Hancock) is a young man just out of college and his parents, played by Paul Spadafora and Gisele Frame, are throwing him a party where their friends are most of the guests. One problem is that Ben is not at all interested in the affair, and as the plot develops a somewhat different affair comes into play.

Johnna Barrett Mitchell is Mrs. Robinson, who is both a cheater and a cougar . Her hubby is played by Stephen DeVillers and they provide a lot of the angst and augments, once their daughter, Elaine (Madelayne Shammas), is drawn into the action by parents of both her and Benjamin. So here is a story where anything that could go wrong, seems to do so, but all comes out OK in the end.

The show is staged in many scenes and directed by Michelle Davis and the cast also includes Paul Danner, Angel Escobedo, Kelly Moore and Julie Ferguson in supporting roles. The running time is about 2hours, with one intermission. And, this small local theater is located behind the Trader Joe’s on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. East to get to, plenty of free parking, and all seats have a good view of the stage. More info at Act3Productions.org

12
Oct

The Royale

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Royale
Theatrical Outfit
through November 4, 2018

It was back around the early 1900’s when a black fighter, Jack Johnson a/k/a the Galveston Giant became the first black man to become the world heavyweight champion. It was during the bad old days when a black person couldn’t stay in many hotels, dine in many restaurants, or even sit in the same waiting rooms at the bus station. And, if he were to drive across a State line with a white woman, it was a serious offense and he could be sent to prison.

Marco Ramirez based this work upon the life of that fighter. In the play he is Jay Jackson (Garrett Turner) and much of the story shows him sparring or fighting with Fish (Marlon Andrew Burnley). The set is a sparse setting made to resemble a fighting ring, and the fighting is created by Yahya McClain and is a work of art.

Jay has a manager, Max (Brian Kurlander), who wants his man to get to the top, and to do so, wants to set up the Fight of the Century against the existing, but retired, world champion. His trainer, Wynton (Rob Cleveland), is pretty sure his man can do it, but not sure what the social outcome may be.

But, Jay’s sister, Nina (Cynthia D. Barker) comes to town to try to dissuade Jay from this endeavor, on the fear of social uprisings should he prevail. In fact just that day several guys had been stopped at the door by Security as they were bearing guns. And, in fact, when the real fight had taken place in 1908 and Johnson won, riotous reactions occurred in many cities. Jim Crow was not really dead and buried and some of it lived on into the 1950’s. Not that bigotry and racism has yet to be extinguished in this land where all men are created equal.

The show runs about 90 minutes without intermission. The Theatrical Outfit is downtown on Luckie Street, and you can avoid problematic on-street parking by using the garage just north of the theater, and they’ll provide a discounted exit pass to you at the concession stand. This is a production that reaches deeply, and is one where you feel as if you are really watching a bout. More info at TheatricalOutfit.org