The Wizard of Oz

Wizard Oz
The Wizard of Oz
Fox Theatre
through June 26, 2016

It’s been more than a decade since the Wizard came to the Fox, and while one might think, at first, that it’s just one of those things for the kiddies; they’re sooooo wrong.

This version has added some new tunes by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. And the technical aspects of the production are what sets it apart from anything you’ve seen before.

As Dorothy (Sarah Lasko) sets out on the yellow brick road she meets up with the usual characters; the Scarecrow (Morgan Reynolds), the Tin Man (Jay McGill), and the cowardly Lion (Aaron Fried). Mark A. Harmon urges her on as Professor Marvel, and he doubles as the Wizard as well.

Shani Hadjian plays the evil Ms. Gulch as well as that wicked witch who wants those red shoes that Dorothy is wearing, and will stop at nothing to obtain whatever she desires. Sort of like a politician of fiction. The lovely Glinda is played by Rachel Womble.

Of course, Toto, steals the show every time he comes onstage. I guess there is a reason why most actors never wish to share the stage with a child or an animal. Same as when Sandy steals the show with Annie.

The cast includes about 20 more players who are the Munchkins as well as the Wicked Witch’s army crew. And what really put this one over the top is fantastic costumes, great choreography, a full orchestra in the pit, and sets and props that are totally Broadway quality. And as we go on in years things evolve and what we have today is technical abilities that just didn’t exist a decade ago.

Wherever you are sitting in the theatre, you feel as if you are right there in Kansas or Oz. What is so wonderful is that this is just not for the kids. All the AARP card holders enjoyed it as much as they did. I don’t care if you’ve seen the show before, you haven’t seen it like this.

Show time is 7:30 Thursday, 8pm Friday, 2pm Saturday and 1pm on Sunday. More info and tickets at FoxTheatre.org



Toruk, The First Flight
Cirque du Soleil
through June 19, 2016

Based to a degree on James Cameron’s Avatar, this is not your usual Cirque production. It is being staged at the Infinite Energy Arena which is located on Sugarloaf Parkway just west of I-85. And it is so hard to imagine that they play for only 5 days, when the staging looks like something that probably took 3 days for move-in.

The story line is pretty irrelevant. It is about some blue skinned humans who want to save humanity, and they need to find the way to obtain the necessary access to pandora. Or, maybe I got it a bit confused; but the plot makes no diff, as you will not quite get a majority of the lines. Some come through as spoken in Klingon. So, just sit back and say WTF, and let your eyes and ears feast upon the production.

Unlike most other Cirques, this one has very little acrobatics. No high wires, no slack wires, no trampolines, and no jugglers. The action is primarily a lot of jumps and somersaults, and many rope climbs and swings. However, the costumes are incredible, and the set is deluged with loads of computer generated projections which surpass anything seen before. You feel as if you are sitting on the set of a Sci-Fi film being made. And, the music, while canned, is the motivating force to get the blood flowing as the story develops.

One questionable aspect of the production is inviting the audience to use their cell phones to respond to an app to permit them to be used as flickering lights during the second act. I, for one, don’t see that. It inspires those who have no sense of politeness to sit through the show messing with those phones and recording images while they sit in front of you. I hope those folks don’t try to attend The Fox or go to the Opera.

So, . . . having said all that, I need to add that it was a wonderful performance. The choreography, music, sets, costumes and puppetry which is very much like what you saw in Lion King, are all first class. But you have to hurry, it closes Sunday. Info and tickets at CirqueDuSoleil.com


West Side Story

West side story
West Side Story
Atlanta Lyric Theatre
through June 26, 2016

I don’t care if you’ve seen this one a few times before. It’s a LOT more fun than politicians and pundits spitting out their story lines. And, if you watched the Tony’s then you have an idea of how blah most of this year’s shows are, and maybe that was a help to Hamilton.

While I doubt Hamilton has legs ala Cats or Phantom, the West Side Story remains as compelling as a Romeo and Juliet can be. When a local Theatre company brings together a cast of thirty players with great choreography and fight scenes by Cindy Mora Reiser, and a spot-on orchestra in the pit under the baton of Eric Alexander, how much better could it get?

Alan Kilpatrick directed this superb cast which includes Katie Murray as Maria, Tim Quartier as her Tony, and Chase Peacock as Bernado. I don’t gotta tell you the story; you know it’s all about the ’hood and mating rights. The Jets run up against the Sharks who are Puerto Ricans. They face off in a rumble, the cops get annoyed, Doc tries to smooth things over, but just like what happened with the Montagues and the Capulets, things do not always come out as “right” as one might hope for.

Everything about this is professional. The sets, costumes, props and cast. And the ticket prices are a heck of a lot better than dealing with Broadway scalpers. So, plan you night (or a Sunday afternoon) at this easy to reach venue in Marietta, with free parking and every seat has an unobstructed view. Just visit them at AtlantaLyric.com and tell them that Officer Krupke told you so.


Rapture, Blister, Burn

Rapture, B
Rapture, Blister, Burn
Out of Box Theatre
through June 25, 2016

Playwright Gina Gionfriddo has done several works with the object to make one think of issues which may not normally be at the top of their list. Her Becky Shaw also deals with convoluted personal relationships.

In this work we meet Cathy (Laura Cole) who is a successful, single professional woman and has no relationships to speak of. There is a couple who she is friends with. Gwen (Jill Hames Graham) and Don (Zip Rampy) are in a difficult relationship. He has his quirks, is not a go-getter, and she is a mom who never got the chance to try to reach for her stars.

Dianne Butler plays the mother of Cathy, who may need some care-giving help, albeit she seems to be more sane than the other gals from time to time. The action starts to evolve when Avery (Bryn Striepe) becomes the ignition switch. Avery is a student at the college where Don is a lower level dean. She also is working as a baby-sitter for Don and Gwen, except Gwen isn’t thrilled about having her there.

So we find three generations of women getting into the rights of women to find fulfillment in their own ways. Grandmother Alice, Mother Gwen, and the student, Avery. To facilitate the discussion, Gwen and Avery opt into a course to be run by Cathy, dealing with relationships. He didn’t expect either one of them, and in fact, there were no others. And so the story goes . . .

A lot of it deals with the works of Betty Friedan in the 1960-1970s, the days of organizing the NOW (National Organization for Women), of thousands of women taking to the streets in major cities. Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique lit the fires for women to see themselves as more than home-makers, domestics and those who followed the leads of their spouses. In today’s world we can salute women such as Friedan; although the truth remains that the fight must go on, as the glass ceilings and pre-conceptions continue to prevail in our society.

This one is well done, and has plenty of laughs to gift-wrap the factor that it deals with discriminatory practices. Just ask your relatives or neighbors. For more info visit OutOfBoxTheatre.com


Enchanted April

enchanted april
Enchanted April
Onstage Atlanta
through June 25, 2016

This play based on a book from the 1920’s is about bored Brit housewives escaping to a holiday sans hubbies, and how what could have been a riotous undertaking evolves into finding solace and rebuilding of relationships.

Lotty (Barbara Cole Uterhardt) and Rose (Emma Greene) are a couple of pretty prim church ladies who find an advert for a vacation rental of a castle in Italia. They’re stuck in unrewarding unions with Mellersh (J. Michael Carroll) and Frederick (Charlie Miller). They decide to go with the idea, but they want to bring another couple of ladies on board to fill up the rooms and share the costs. So Lady Caroline (Henley Slepyan) and grumpy Mrs. Graves (Patty Guenthner) round out the temporary sorority.

Mellersh is a control freak type who wants a fully subordinated woman as his wife. He’s a egomaniac solicitor. And speaking of soliciting; Frederick is a writer who is doing some works using a nom de plume, and used the alias when he met up with one of the other 3 ladies at a book signing, clueless that he may wind up in the same scene with both his wife and his wanna-be.

The play is pretty slow moving in Act I as the stark set serves as a background for fast shifts through several venues as these ladies make their escape plans. Then, in Act II we find a nice set on the patio of the Castle overlooking the Mediterranean and the domestic, Costanza (Rebecca Lilak Sorrells), tries to handle this bunch of weirdos. The property owner (Jeffrey Allen Sneed) shows up, and he finds some interesting eye candy there. But, when Lotty and Rose decide to implore their others to come join the gang, you expect all hell to break loose, in a Moliere fashion. But, it doesn’t quite work that way. This one is not quite a Shirley Valentine story. As each of the women finds satisfaction in manners they might never have imagined, and all comes out right in the end.

Directed by Jeffrey Brown, the cast does a fine job and they’ve done well with the lines in Italian. If you’ve seen one of the films you know where it’s going, but the play takes longer to get there. The performances are only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. More info an tickets at OnstageAtlanta.com


Pancakes, Pancakes!

Pancakes, pancakes
Pancakes, Pancakes!
Alliance Theatre
through July 10, 2016

This is a production of their theatre for the very young, and it is a surprise in so many ways. Most families get their children into theatre with Scrooge and Tiny Tim, or some Cats of various breeds. And some of the childrens’ theatre productions are primarily children playing to children. Well, this is quite a different opus.

First of all, it is in collaboration with the High Museum; so families can visit both the theatre and the museum on the same trip. The story of the play is from Eric Carle’s children’s book, Pancakes, Pancakes! who wrote the tale and did the artwork almost 50 years ago. And the High has a special exhibit of more than 80 works by Eric Carle, who specialized in using collages.

The play is a bedtime story about a lad who wants a big breakfast, but he has to help his mother by arranging to get her the wheat, eggs, milk and butter and then help withthe mixing. But, it goes back to the very start of how one obtains these items to start with.

Kenneth Lin wrote this short play and this premiere production is directed by David de Vries. Here’s the incredible aspect. The AARP crowd enjoys the show as much as, or perhaps more than, the kiddies. The set seems at first to be very basic; but the projected imagery by Mike Tutaj is not good; it is superb.

There are four terrific players in this work. Young 14 year old Matt Alea is the youngster with the pancake urge. His mom is Molly Coyne who also plays violin in all the numbers. Rob Lawhon is onstage as the second musician with guitar, and doubles in a supporting roles. The main comedic source is that giant rooster played by Adam Washington. He is terrific and doesn’t chicken out from anything.

What brings this all together so well is the music composed and directed by Phillip DePoy, and the fantastic costumes by Jeff Cone. Add in great stage presence and there you have it. While some shows make you understand why they have no intermission (as it would prevent many from leaving early) this is one when you wish there were a second act, because the first one is just so entertaining.

They perform only weekends and during morning and afternoon times. It is less than an hour, but well worth seeing. More info and tickets at AllianceTheatre.org