Fabrefaction Theatre
through May 8, 2016

The Fabrefaction Theatre Conservatory has worked hard to help bring young actors along the path to stage success. Presently they are performing at 7 Stages in Little Five Points, and next season they will be housed at Actors Express in their old ’hood.

So it is no surprise that they have a very large cast of youngsters playing many roles, some in rotation from one night to another; as well as six professional adult actors.

You know some of the story as Dickens penned it. An orphan boy in a workhouse gets on the wrong side of the management and the beadle sells him off to a funeral director who uses and abuses a kid like Oliver. When Oliver meats up with The Artful Dodger, he accepts the invitation to escape to some hustler who trains kids such as him to pick a pocket or two each day. That’s how they’ll earn their gruel. And, the story moves on from there as one woman takes a fancy to helping and protecting this youngster and how she winds up paying for her good deeds.

Most youngsters have read or seen Oliver in one version or another; albeit they won’t necessarily recall each of the elements of the plot; nor too many of the musical version numbers. It isn’t an annual event such as Christmas Carol. And the production downplays the anti-Semitic Dickensian lines and the trollops.

Christina Hoff has directed this work, which moves pretty easily. There are some sound problems when the music is amped up quite loudly and few of the performers are mic’d. But, it’s a good initiation experience if you want to help a youngster think about acting or becoming a theatre fan. The conservatory cast members all enjoyed their hours of fame, and they have some matinees that will work easily at 2 on Saturdays and 3 on Sundays. They’re on the main stage at 7 Stages, and there is a parking lot (for pay) right behind the theatre. More info available at Fabrefaction.org


Sotto Voce

Sotto Voce
Sotto Voce
Aurora Theatre
through May 8, 2016

In May 1939 the MV St. Louis set out from Hamburg with more than 900 refugees fleeing Germany for asylum in Cuba. Although each of the passengers had entry permits to Cuba, they did not know that a week before departure the president of Cuba had invalidated all previously issued entry permits. So when they entered the harbor at Havana, they were denied dockage and eventually fewer than 30 passengers were actually granted entry.

After being denied entry to the United States and Canada, they ship sailed back to Europe and docked at Antwerp, where all passengers were allowed entry. Shortly after that, the Nazis had invaded and occupied the areas where these refugees sought asylum. Most of them were Jewish and many of them perished in the camps.

In the book, Voyage of the Damned, the authors estimated that more than 200 of the 900 passengers did not survive the war. I do recall from my days in school, the story and how the ship passed so closely off the coast of Florida that the passengers could actually see Miami Beach. And when we recall the history of the 1940’s we understand that our nation was isolationist and was trying to avoid getting into the war. But, our government knew that we’d soon be dragged in; for Germany was invading all of western Europe and Japan had already started fighting China and Korea. It was going to take another Lusitania type of incident to move the politicians along. But, they didn’t get it quite right; because they were taken aback by Pearl Harbor.

Playwright Nilo Cruz is a Cuban American who escaped to Miami, and calle ocho, in 1970. So he understands fully what it means to leave people and a home that one loves, to seek safety and a better life. He penned this work about an aging teacher who survived WWII in Europe while her family and friends sough refuge abroad, but had since perished. Marianne Fraulo plays Bemadette Kahn who lives a very solitary life as she writes about her life to the present day. She is sought out by a young Cuban student, Saquiel (Louis Gregory), who comes off like a stalker. He’s studying about the Holocaust and desperately wants to meet and interview Bemadette, who is not keen on even speaking with him about anything.

The intermediary is Lucila, (Denise Arribas), a sort of maid, cook, housekeeper and general all-around assistant to Bemedette. She becomes a mediator for each side as she tries to open the doors to effective communication. This was an easy choice for producer Anthony Rodriguez, whose parents also fled Cuba. And, as the world turns we now find the doors opening to Cuba. But, we also must keep in the back of our minds what has occurred in years past; for as George Santayana said in 1896, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Justin Anderson directed this show, which reaches deeply into the caverns of human understanding, and inspires one to think about others in the world who face these challenges every day. Performed in English with Spanish supertitles.

More info at AuroraTheatre.com


The Princess & The Goblin

Princess & Goblin
The Princess & The Goblin
Atlanta Ballet
through April 17, 2016

The Princess & The Goblin is a new ballet conceived and choreographed by Twyla Tharp on a commission from our Atlanta Ballet in conjunction with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 2012. Twyla Tharp based the production on a children’s book about some goblins which was written by George MacDonald in 1872, and she directed the premiere.

It is a story about some weird creatures, goblins, who live underground and have a bad habit of abducting children. But, don’t fret as nobody gets hurt in the ballet. The story from the book is kind of convoluted with the princess trying to get her father to intervene, his failure to do so, the Great-Great-Grandmother coming to her aid, and some more twists and turns.

But, the story is not one that one needs to delve into past and the idea that there are obvious good guys and bad guys, and it’s about who will win out in the end, and you know it has to be the goodies.

A couple of aspects of this ballet make it truly enjoyable. The score was created by Richard Burke and features music of Franz Schubert; and it really is one that is enjoyable even if you were just listening to it on a CD. And this production features both the ballet Company of more than 20 dancers as well as more than a dozen youngsters who get to take the stage en masse and they’ve learned their steps and timing so well. One has to think what a thrill it must be for the youngsters to have this opportunity.

Speaking of youngsters; this is a fine ballet to use as an introduction to dance for your kids or grand-kids, as they will enjoy it and relate to the fairy tale story line. The bad guys are like a bunch from the ’hood, and dressed in an obvious fashion; while the princess and her folks are spiffed up in grand style. A full orchestra in the pit keeps everything and every body gracefully moving along.

The performance is comprised of sixteen scenes, but in one act running about 1 hour 25 minutes. So short enough that the old folks and the kiddies can get through it with ease. The performances are at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center right near I-75 and 285. Check things out at AtlantaBallet.com


The Light in the Piazza

Light in Piazza
The Light in the Piazza
Theatrical Outfit
through May 15, 2016

The Light in the Piazza with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel is one of those works which takes real cajones to stage. And that is what Theatrical Outfit is all about these days. . . .

The story is fairly simple. A mother and daughter from North Carolina go off to Italy on a trip. We meet then in Firenze where the David is being checked out by tourists. The daughter is developmentally delayed after an equestrian accident. But, she does seem to be enjoying her visit to the Uffizi Museum and the other attractions. Most attractive to her is a young man she meets on the Piazza. Fabrizio (Tim Quartier) and Clara (Devon Hales) seem to hit it off big time; notwithstanding that her Italian and his English are both somewhat lacking.

This isn’t going to work, says her mother Margaret (Christy Baggett), who is concerned that Clara’s mental capacities may not be as hoped for predicated upon her age. But, what is driving the relationship may not be IQ tests as much as basic human relationship desires. As mother pulls Clara away from Fabrizio and drags her north to Rome, things get more stressful.

And we have two families that have concerns. Fabrizio’s parents aren’t nuts about him marrying a non-Catholic American gal, and Clara’s parents aren’t enthused about her relocating to Italy with a bunch of gumbas. Each has a concern that our Brit friends would refer to as NQOT (Not Quite Our Type). And where the story goes, is what the play is made of.

And this is one that is not your usual musical. The score is somewhat operatic and sometimes dissonant, while the lyrics are sometimes sung in Italian without any super-titles for those who no comprendere italiano. It’s not one where you’ll leave the theatre humming any of the music, nor recalling the lyrics.

Having said that, it is a very well produced show under the direction of Richard Garner, who brought in a fine cast of more than a dozen players, and put together an easy set with few props but which changes nicely with projected imagery.

The underlying question is, does love conquer all? You can get plenty of background info if you Google the show, and you can get more info and tickets at TheatricalOutfit.org


Joe Gransden & his Big Band

Joe Gransden and his Big Band
Georgia Ensemble Theatre

The final concert in this season’s 4-concert schedule for Joe Gransden and his 16 piece Big Band, was a smash hit last night in Roswell. The show was called The Lady Sings the Blues, albeit there weren’t too many blues numbers. But, Francine Reed came on for her final gig before leaving our town to move to Phoenix.

Bob Farley was happy to announce that Joe and the band would be returning next season for another four concerts, and that they are already selling out. So, if interested, go to the website at GET.org and reserve your space while there are still some seats left. Last night was a totally sold out house.

And in the meantime you can find Joe and his band at Café 290 in Sandy Springs on the first and third Mondays of each month.



deam girls
Lyric Theatre
through April 24, 2016

If you were an R&B fan in the 60’s and 70’s then this is one you will really dig. And even if you aren’t an AARP member yet, there are loads of younger folks who are into Rhythm and Blues numbers.

This show was premiered on Broadway 35 years ago, and won 6 Tonys, including Best Musical. But, keep in mind that this music ain’t your grandmother’s Sound of Music. It has often been suggested that a lot of the story line is derived from the lives of The Supremes and what they went through in their careers. However, the creators and producers have always denied that; possibly for legal reasons. But you can decide.

We meet three young women in Chicago who want to get their hour on stage and enjoy the fame and fortune. Effie White (Kayce Grogan-Wallace) is the lead singer in the original trio and is joined by Lorrell (Chimére Scott) and Deena (Judith Franklin). The story is about what happens in show biz. Who will be center stage, who gets the gig in Miami or Vegas, and whose name goes at the top the playbill.

The ladies have to decide if they will sing backup for some male singer such as James Early (Garrett Turner). Then there are problems with booking agents and producers and it is a long and tenuous road to that destination named Success.

Very well choreographed and directed by Ricardo Aponte, the show moves easily through many scenes as the singers belt out more than 2 dozen numbers, with a full band in the pit under the baton of Brandt Blocker. The music really rocks and is amped up like that car with it’s windows open, that stops next to you at a red light when you’re on your phone.

With a cast of 22 and great costumes, including the mandatory sequined long dresses, they move easily and present the numbers just as they used to be, so many years ago at The Apollo Theatre and so many other houses in Harlem and elsewhere. These were the days when it was difficult for a Black performer to hit the big time, even in the Big Apple. And the honkeys weren’t taking the A-train up there so much in them days.

So if this be your bag, you can put those cassettes away, and go get some more info at AtlantaLyric.com


Ballets Trockadero

Ballets Trockadero
Ferst Center at Georgia Tech

Four decades ago a group of male dancers in New York started putting on some late night parody shows which quickly generated great acclaim. The company, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, has now played around the world to audiences who always love their work.

The cast of danseurs will come on in both male and female roles, and each is classically trained and has a deep appreciation for the works they perform. Some of them may appear both in drag and as males or some cartoon type. But, they inject their silliness into the routines, which gets the crowd laughing as they applaud.

You may be a newbie or a true balletomane, but it makes no diff. . . . if you were there you had one memorable evening. The music from Swan Lake, Esmeralda and Don Quixote is canned but is superb in and of itself, while the costuming is exactly what you’d expect were you at a formal ballet in a major city.

OK, . . so they take prat falls, but can also do triple jumps; and these gents can do so much work on toe that it will blow you away. We don’t see many danseurs work on toe, barefoot, doing swan-like arm swings, and being lifted. Usually the gents are the catchers. It was a really enjoyable evening with funny routines and also some very fine divertissements.

If you see them coming back to town, or find they are performing someplace where you may be visiting; treat yourself to a fun evening. I can assure you that anyone from age 2 to 92 will enjoy. There must be loads of clips about them at Youtube.

The Ferst Center is easy to get to at Georgia Tech campus, and it is NOT just for the students. The rest of the community is always welcome there. Next up at the venue is Red-Eye to Havre de Grace, brought to stage by Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental with Wilhelm Brothers & Company. It is a new musical about the last days of Edgar Allan Poe. It will play April 14-16 and there is more info at ArtsGatech.edu


Good People

Out of Box
Good People
Out of Box Theatre
through April 23, 2016

Playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire has set this play in his old hood. He grew up in Beantown (a/k/a Boston) and while the metro area is made up of more than 4 dozen independent towns and cities, and is one with many cultures; it was one which was also very segregated. The Asian community was downtown, the Italian section was the North End, the Irish were mostly in South Boston while the hoi-polloi lived in Back Bay, Beacon Hill and started the migration westward through Brookline, Newton and Wellesley. So he pulls together a lot of the characteristics of lives in Southie.

Matthew Busch has brought a fine cast together and they do come off with pretty good Bahstin accents, even if they can’t pak their cahs in Harvid Yad. Margie Walsh (Amanda Cucher) is working at a Dollar Store but she has some problems with showing up for work, and her friend, Stevie, who is the manager has to can her. So she starts off in her search for some new low-level employment.

Stevie (Jeffrey Sneed) wants to be of help, but his sources are severely limited. Life wasn’t easy, living from paycheck to paycheck, and not being on food stamps. Liane LeMaster and LeeAnna Lambert are a couple of Margie’s BFFs. They all grew up together, and they spew out whatever comes to mind, using the street lingo that made Amy Schumer a hit.

One of her old classmates was Mike (Will Brooks) who managed to finish high school, went on to college and escaped from Southie when he became a physician. Now, he lives in a posh area in the burbs and is married to Kate (Mystie D. Smith) who is from a totally different background.

I don’t like to give away secrets of where a show is going. But, if you saw Kimberly Akimbo when it played at this theatre last year then you may recall that the playwright has quite a skill for enveloping pathos in a skin of hilarious exchanges. And this one ain’t no different. There are good people who want nothing other than to be good for themselves and others; yet sometimes may be seen as not being quite such a goodie. Margie and Kate each have a child, although we do not meet them. But we do delve into past and present relationships as the tale unfolds.

Sometimes you can anticipate the next line, such as when four of them are at a church bingo game and one of them yells Bingo! But, there are twists and turns on the road. Very well done production with very entertaining actors. Nobody gets beat up nor killed, but there is plenty of screaming in Act II, so just deal with it. More info and tickets at OutOfBoxTheatre.com


Yesterday and Today

Yesterday and Today
Georgia Ensemble Theatre
through April 24, 2016

It was in 1964 that The British Invasion really hit these shores, and it was very influenced by those four young men from Liverpool, who flew into New York and took over the music world. Yes, . . .the music of The Beatles is classic and is enjoyed to this day; by those of us who were around then and even the two generations since then.

For those were the days when you could actually understand the words being belted out, the girls wore those new mini-skirts, and everybody was doing their twists and turns in time with the beat. And what a treat it is to have this show here for a nice long run. Some of us will surely try to make a second visit to it, since it is mostly unscripted.

The three McGuigan brothers were brought up as army brats and their dad was a huge Beatles fan. They became addicted to the music as well. And their children are even named after three of the Beatles. Over the years, they have learned every one of the hundreds of numbers which the Beatles wrote and performed, and they’ll do any of them for you without a score in front of them.

The show is staged as an “interactive experience” because they invite the audience to tell them which tunes they wish to hear and see. I say “see” because they are backed up by terrific projected imagery and lighting. So you can go on down Penny Lane, take a trip on a Yellow Submarine, sing to Madonna, or watch Sgt. Pepper as well as scores of others. What underlies this performance by a band of six players is energy. The energy they expend and the excitement they generate.

This group, whose home base is in Omaha, has played around the USA and Canada, and it is a real treat to have them here for more than the usual 2 or 3 days in so many venues. This is a MUST SEE show, you can check it out on youtube and visit GET.org for more info.


Sex with Strangers

Sex with Strangers
Sex with Strangers
Horizon Theatre
through May 1, 2016

Laura Eason created this work about some unlikely writers hooking up in a B&B retreat up north, and how their totally different lifestyles wound up transforming each other. It’s enjoyed playing around the country in many venues, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got to the screen one of these days.

We meet Olivia Lago (Megan Hayes) and Ethan Kane (Michael Shenefelt) when he shows up uninvited, and intrudes upon Olivia’s working on her current manuscript. She’s quite reserved and a bit older than him. She’s been a writer for some time, puts in a lot of effort and has gained very little from her work.

On the other hand, Ethan is quite a celebrity online. Under the nom de plume of Ethan Strange, he has a website where he puts up fanciful tales of his encounters with women around the world. Maybe some of it is true, but he admits to Olivia that some is absolute BS; posted just to attract more porn hungry schmucks to his site. He’s become a celebrity, has a contract for a film in Hollywood and earns a pile of dough.

Those of us who are writers generally understand that celebrity is what sells. When the author’s name is in larger type and above the title of book, you know he is getting paid quite well. But, for most of us, our royalties on published works may sometimes pay for lunch at the Waffle Palace.

Olivia wants the success status. Ethan wants to be able to be a human with an appropriate partner. He actually read her published book and thought she was brilliant, and he hunted her down to her retreat for the sole purpose of connecting with her. And connect they do. Will either achieve the type of success they may desire? Whether of not that is a relationship which can last is what you shall have to contemplate as they move through Act II.

Directed by Jeff Adler, on another fine set by Moriah & Isabel Curley-Clay, the show moves easily through several scenes. It’s an interesting work which pits the old hard copy readers against the cyber scanners. The viewers in their 20’s may “get it” even more than the AARP members. For more info and tickets: HorizonTheatre.com