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

8
Oct

Nell Gwynn

 

Nell Gwynn
Synchronicity Theatre
through October 21, 2018

A wonderful tale by Jessica Swale, about a poor gal from the Cheapside who winds up with Charles II, and directed by Richard Garner with a cast of 11 players who come on in the style of the day. It’s been camped up a wee bit, primarily in the lingo used to describe the female anatomy; when in fact Otto Titzling didn’t come into vogue until he appeared in a novel in 1971.

Nell (Courtney Moors) had a pretty lousy younger life. She was a street girl, and had become a prostitute at times. She was born in 1650, and passed away at age 37 after a bawdy life, life in the theatre, and in the homes of royalty. In fact, after Charles got rid of her, she got a town house on the Pall Mall. Not bad for a fruit peddler.

In olden days women were not permitted to take the stage, but once Nell got his eyes (and more) he made it acceptable for female roles to be played by women. She had two sons by the king, one of whom died at age 10 in a school in Paris. They think it may have been some kind of syphilis. Rob Shaw-Smith plays His Highness and her tutor-lover, Charles Hart is played by Eugene H. Russell IV. But, it was her appearance in 1665 in a play by John Dryden (Brandon Patrick) that really made her a star.

The playwright steps up to admit she embellished some facets of the story, but the basic history is accurate; and the play was crafted to bring Nell’s story to us in an easy and humorous manner. Well done!

This theatre is easy to get to on Peachtree Street with really good accommodations. And the good news is that those parking meter cockroaches can’t ticket you after 7pm, so fear not. More info at SynchroTheatre.com

7
Oct

One Man, Two Guvnors

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Man, Two Guvnors
Center Stage North
through October 1, 2018

Let’s skip to the bottom line . . . . This local theatre in Cobb is staging an incredible performance of a terrifically funny play, and it has but one more week to run. It is an adaptation of an old Italian commedia dell’arte opus dating back to 1743. Richard Bean updated the work to the 1960’s and set in Brighton, England. That’s the coastal town on what the Londoners used to refer to as La Costa Geriatrical.

This small theatre company has brought together a cast of 13 players, with a Skiffle band of 3 players who move the show along with great music. It is a goofy play, about a character, Francis (Bob Lanoue) who is a weird hustler who winds up fronting for two guys, neither of whom wish to ever encounter the other. The younger Roscoe (Jessie Kuipers) may not be quite the guy one might think. And Stanley (Kevin Renshaw) is his nemesis.

The set is a Moliere type, with one door opening as another closes, and the players come and go. Francis comes off like Stubby Kaye, and he also works the audience as the play moves forward. After all, what could go wrong? EVERYTHING! And the weird waiter Alfie, is played to the hilt by Kirk Renshaw, who takes so many prat falls you feel really concerned.

Directed by Jennifer and Kevin Renshaw, each of the players is first-class, and this one is a couple of hours of non-stop humor, with no politicians speaking at all. Easy to get to and plenty of free parking. But, if you snooze you lose; so visit their website NOW: CenterStageNorth.com

6
Oct

Nick’s Flamingo Grill

Nick’s Flamingo Grill
Alliance Theatre
through October 28, 2018

This world premiere of Phillip DePoy’s latest work is lighting up the Hertz Stage at Woodruff Center. The playwright has had an astounding career with dozens of books and plays, and is well known and respected in our community. In this work he goes back decades to the days when hotels, clubs, restaurants and so much more were still being segregated. He recalls a club that may, or may not, have actually existed where black and white folks met, and jazz ruled.

Directed by Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, the stage has been turned into a trashy old factory facility that is being transformed into a jazz club by two former GIs who want to follow the beat and the sound. Nick (Cordell Cole) and Bechet (Antwayn Hopper) are from different backgrounds. They had been playing in clubs in Paris, and feel it is time for Atlanta.

They’re joined by a French former resistence fighter, Claudine (Shakirah Demesier) and the Cubana, Chi-Chi Lopez (Diany Rodriguez). The property owner is Harold Napier (Robin Bloodworth) and they get visited by a record producer, John Hammond (Daniel Triandiflou).

The stage is set as if you are in that old place, with doors that open, and problems that exist. It starts just after WWII, when explosive devices left by the Wehrmacht might still be around, and care and concern were everywhere. And, as the time line comes up to the 1950’s and to today we are compelled to think about not only how far we may have come in our fights for equality; but how much more we have to go to reach the desired results.

A very well done production, especially for those of us of a certain age. More info at AllianceTheatre.org

3
Oct

Nomad Motel

Nomad Motel
Horizon Theatre
through October 21, 2018

The Horizon is one of three theaters in this rolling premiere of a new work by Carla Ching. Directed by Melissa Foulger, it is a story about a couple of young folks in southern California, each trying to find their way through problematic times.

Ashley Anderson comes on as Alix, a student who has to finish some papers for her high school diploma, and having tough times getting through. She lives with her mother (Liza Jaine) in a crumby motel, and she works at many job trying to help her mother and two younger siblings get by. They have no permanent address and when the monthly rent comes due, it may often be the time they must evacuate and move on to another dump.

On the other side of the economic divide, Mason (Kevin Qian) is a student who is really into music and he is what is called a parachute child. He’s also trying to finish up some essay type of thing for school. His father, (Wai Yim) brought him to the States so he could get an education and go on to an Ivy League college and become a wealthy businessman. Not at all what Mason is interested in. But, he’s living pretty well in a home that his father owns and he gets a stipend each month for food and expenses. Well, most months. Something has come up and his dad, who is in a shady enterprise in Hong Kong, seems to have gone missing for a while.

Meanwhile, a young man from the ‘hood, Oscar (Marcellis Cutler) was once a boyfriend of Ali,but that ended as they don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Howevr, at one point Alix moves in with Oscar, but that doesn’t work out too well, either.

It is a tale of two young people just trying to get through their difficult lives; and it is a not uncommon sort of experience for too many young folks these days. It sort of reminds one of the family pun about putting FUN back in dysfunctional. Each of the actors exudes great energy and the show moves quite well on a set by the sisters Curley-Clay. Horizon is in Little 5 Points, but has free parking and good seating. More info at HorizonTheatre.com

1
Oct

Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD

Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD
Atlanta Opera
through October 7, 2018

This is not your usual type of operatic production. This opera about the famed sax player is actually set in a cabaret club on Ponce. Le Maison Rouge is at 716 Ponce and is NOT your grandmother’s setting for a major production. But, go with the flow, as the objective is to be multi-cultural, and relative to the actual experiences of the theme of the opera.

Charlie Parker, a/k/a YardBird, was only 34 when he died, and he was an icon for the growth of black musicians playing in clubs where everybody was welcomed; especially if they bought drinks. He was heading to Boston when he stopped to visit a wealthy white woman in NYC, and it was there that he passed away. Many stories got out about how the rich lady tried to hide his death and her friendship with a black man.

Not that Charlie was a symbol of morality. Like many of his time, he knew quite a few ladies, had a deep appreciation of alcohol and drugs, had been married several times, fathered children, left town, etc. The one thing he was truly addicted to was music and his saxophone. If he accomplished anything it is that his musical legacy lives on, as Birdland.

This is the work of Daniel Schnyder for the score, and Bridgette Wimberly for the libretto, and it premiered just 3 years ago. Clinton Smith conducts the orchestra and seven singers take the stage. Charlie is played alternately by Martin Bakari and Joshua Stewart. The Baroness Pannonica is Gina Perregrino. The last wife, Chan, is sung by Rachel Sterrenberg. And three of Parker’s family are sung by Angela Brown, Chrystal E. Williams, and Maria Valdes. And Dizzy Gillespie (Sidney Outlaw) shows up as he and Charlie were friends and both heading for the stars.

This is an Opera Nouveau so if you are expecting a bunch of jazz riffs, and be-bop numbers, you may be on the wrong page. For it is about a man, fighting his devils, trying to get somewhere in life, and it being cut short in 1955. In days when we are seeing many shows that deal with families, integration, and the rights of people of different races and sexes, it seems very appropriate.

It is another well done presentation by our Opera company, and more info is at AtlantaOpera.org

29
Sep

Parade

Parade
Wallace Buice Theatre
through October 7, 2018

For a small fairly new theatre company to bring this one to the stage, is quite an accomplishment. The play is a classic by Alfred Uhry with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. It’s a story about justice gone wrong, anti-Semitism, and the rising up again of the Klan.

If you don’t know the story, it is simple. A Jewish man, Leo Frank (Jared Bradshaw) was from NYC and working at a pencil factory in Atlanta. He was the bookkeeper for the factory. A 13 year old worker, Mary Phagan (Molly Wiley) is found dead in the factory and Leo was one of the last to see her alive. As he was a Yankee and a Jew, the odds were stacked against him from the start.

He was the person of interest, and despite no significant evidence of his involvement, it was convenient to indict and try him. Prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (Matthew Sidney Morris) did as he felt people wished him to do, which was to get it done and do it quickly. Leo Frank was found guilty and sentenced to hang. But Governor Slaton (Jeremy Wood) commuted his sentence to work on a prison farm in Milledgeville. His wife, Lucille (Maggie Salley) knew he wasn’t capable of this heinous act and does everything she can do to gain his release. To no avail.

For on that day in 1913 a gang invaded the prison farm, abducted Leo Frank and brought him to Marietta, where they lynched him on what is now Route 120 near Cobb Parkway. The small park area and a bronze plaque sign stand there in memory of what occurred.

Taylor Buice grandly directed a cast of 17 players, with 9 orchestra players under the baton of Ed Thrower; as they worked their way through the more than 30 numbers. This production is being staged in Marietta at the Atlanta Lyric Studio Theatre, just off the square. Easy to get to and fair amount of on-street parking usually available. It’s a small stage production and all the seats have a good view. It is a real accomplishment for this new company and you can get more info at WallaceBuiceTheatre.com