Atlanta Opera
through May 7, 2017

Turandot returns to the Cobb Energy after 10 years.  When they presented it there in October 2007 it was their first production there after leaving the Fox.  Turandot isn’t a Carmen or La Boheme, in that there is really only one memorable number.  But, the story is weird, as are most operas, and the costumes, sets and props are a treat to the senses; along with the score which was mostly by Giacomo Puccini and based on Carlo Guzzi’s play of the same name.

It must have really impressed the audience when it premiered at La Scala, with all those weird Asian types.  But the, most operas have weirdos, people dying, and love and stress as major themes.  The opera is staged with more than 200 people involved on stage, in the pit, and in support.  And, it is sometimes more like a three ring circus, than just a strange love story.

Turandot (Marcy Stonikas) is the cold hearted princess daughter of the Emperor of all China.   Her dad wants her to get married, but she is seriously disinclined.  She has it enacted into law that any suitor may claim her if he can answer three riddles..  Get one wrong and he loses his head.   It’s been a tough year so far and 13 suitors have gone to the cemetery.   Enter a stranger (Gianluca Terrnova), a prince of someplace whose name is unknown.   He demands to be put to the test, and without having to call a friend or poll the audience he gets all three riddles answered.   Turandot is really ticked off.    Stranger says that if she shall pronounce his name before the dawn that he will forfeit his life.    So Turandot declares that nobody in Peking may sleep that night.  Everyone is put to the job of ferreting out Stranger’s name on pain of death.   Talk about a sore loser!gy

On hearing of the edict, our noble suitor sings Nessun dorma (Nobody sleeps) which is the centerpiece of Turandot.   While he sings that victory shall be his, he winds up spilling the beans to Turandot; who now has the power to destroy him.   In the process Liu (Kelly Kaduce) who is enamored of Calaf, but knows that one way or another she can’t win, takes a dive.  But Turandot becomes warmed by love of, and for, Calaf and joins with him to unite in matrimony, spare the citizens of Peking, and restore peace to the Empire.   Nu?  It’s a fairy tale set to music?

The three clownish figures of Ping (Daniel Belcher), Pang (Julius Ahn) and Pong (Joseph Hu) are deliberately exaggerated so that at times you think they are Larry, Moe and Curly.  They are terrific and they are the glue that sometimes bonds this opera together.

It may sound somewhat Trumpish to say it, but this production, directed by Tomer Zvulun with Arthur Fagan conducting, is in every way as good as what you might see at The Met.  First class in every aspect.  Cobb Energy Center is easy to get to near 285 and 75, and easy parking.  More info and tickets at AtlantaOpera.org


The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told
OutFront Theatre
through May 14, 2017

Atlanta’s LGBTQIAQ theatre presents this provocative work at their facility on Brady Street at 10th, downtown.  Founding artistic director Paul Conroy has some cojones and is not one who gets pushed around.  Before this show opened here more than 50,000 people signed on to condemn this work and ask that it be canceled.

The story is a sometimes caustic parody of commonly held religious beliefs; starting off in the Garden of Eden, and winding up in present day NYC.  It is guaranteed to offend those who hold the holy scriptures as undeniably true.

An energetic cast of nine players in many roles move this one along.  We meet Adam (Ty Autry) and Steve (Brian Jordan) in the Garden as the first humans.  They become friends and lovers; but seem to have some problems vis-a-vis procreation. Then we meet up with Jane (Ellie Stryon) and Mabel (Jenni McCarthy), who also have a relationship and difficulties.

The show moves through many scenes including the flood and the ark, the nativity scene (with a couple of wise men), and the days of The Pharaoh.  And in Act II, the story comes into current day status on a Christmas Eve in Chelsea, with a group of folks of various backgrounds, sexual preferences and beliefs.  Albeit, they don’t get into current-day political commentary; you may sit there wondering what our Grand President might think of the show.  And, how fortunate for all concerned that McCarthy isn’t around to blacklist playwrights and actors.

In the final scenes we have a lesbian about to give birth, a wedding of two women to be conducted by a disabled lesbian Rabbi, and all kinds of insanity reigns.  The show is moved along by a narrator/stage manager (Nicole Smith) who calls the actions and the cuts.  Jess McGuire, Alex Bucar, David Grindstaff and Rachel Garbus round out the cast in multiple roles.

Playwright Paul Rudnick won much acclaim as well as contempt for his work.  Do you buy into creativity or evolution, intelligent design or whatever?   This isn’t for Ms. Prim or the Bible Thumpers, nor the homophobic; and there is some nudity, but then it’s just human anatomy.

The play runs more than 2 hours, with comfortable seating and easy to get to.  It is designed to raise issues, inspire reflection and see the world as it is, rather than as others may tell us.  More info and tickets at OutFrontTheatre.com




What too many politicians don’t get is that what makes a community such as ours great is transportation, education and the arts.   Atlanta today isn’t the Atlanta we knew 60 years ago, and we are NOT going back to those days.

The amount of money the government spends on the NEA is less than two one-hundredths of one percent of the national budget.  But our noble leader would rather piss away more than that on his personal travel and security services.

Are we supposed to turn a blind eye to the fact that we are the only first world industrialized nation without a universal health plan to cover all who live here?   While our friends and relatives in most of Europe send their kids to school, and on to college, and tuition is free, our kids go off to school and may be graduated with more than $100,000 in debt before their first pay check.

This nation was designed to be a democracy, but so often seems to have evolved into an oligarchy, where fewer than 1% of the people control more than 90% of the economy; and maybe that’s why the person dealing out the burgers and fries is being paid just over $8 and hour, while the customer in the BMW at the drive thru window was paid over $200,000 for his/her work.

While we have corporate czars here taking down more than $50 million a year in pay, you will not find any CEOs sucking up that much money in the EU.  And while the folks in Scandinavia may be paying much higher tax rates than we do, they don’t seem to be unhappy about their lifestyles.

Maybe we need to change the motto on our currency and license plates to read, IN GREED WE TRUST.

If we truly want to make America great again, we can not turn our backs on the arts.   So let your elected representatives know that you will take a personal affront to their actions if they support the demise of the National Endowment for the Arts.



Matilda, the Musical
Fox Theatre
through April 23, 2017

Only a couple more days to catch up with Roald Dahl’s Matilda at the Fox.  She’s that incredibly bright young girl who winds up having some problems at her school, and other things to deal with as well.

Matilda is played by three different special young ladies on different nights, and they are all of the Annie quality.  The parents are Darcy Stewart and Matt Harrington.  The dad is a real piece of work.  But then, the school mistress, Ms. Trunchbull (Dan Chameroy) can make Miss Hannigan look like a saint, when she sends the kids to the Chokey.

The staging and the kids are what makes this one work.  The rear projections, fast moving sets, canned sound that’s always in perfect synch, and a large group of youngsters who can act, sing, dance, and handle gymnastics as well, is quite rare.  Kind of makes one think of why actors never want to share the stage with a child nor an animal.

The music is not a score you’ll recall and leave the theater humming.  And, this may not be for all youngsters, as this is not one of those “Once upon a time, there was a happy ending” kind of script.   Having said that, it may not ring the chimes for all of the AARP card holders, either.  It is not Annie, and certainly not akin to Cats or Les Miz.

But, it you like the story line, you’ll love the production.  So hop on the Marta and don’t miss out.


Urinetown, the Musical

Urinetown, the Musical
Act3 Playhouse
through April 30, 2017

Urinetown, the Musical is a play within a play, where the narrator works the house as well as interacting with others in the cast of 18 players.  It’s a mighty big production for a smaller local theatre company.  But, they pull it off with great aplomb.

Even if you’ve see the show before, this time you’ll start to understand things a bit differently.  Especially in relationship to current political and economic activities.  It isn’t actually about the pay potties in Manhattan years ago, nor the outsourced parking meter enforcement in Atlanta that we hated.  It’s about big business and politicians for hire.  Gee. . . . how things have changed in our oligarchy.

Barbara Cole Uterhardt plays Office Lockstock, and she is having a ball doing so.  Caldwell B. Caldwell is the CEO of UGC, the firm which manages the pay potties.  UGC is the logo for Urine Good Company.   You’ll love the puns where we have officer Lockstock assisted by officer Barrel (Nathan Tyler Hesse), and other such lines.  Little Sally (Summer McCusker) is sort of like an Annie type as she wishes things could be better for everybody, not just her.  And you’ll love meeting   Caldwell’s daughter, Hope (Leah Parris), who might possibly bring to mind some folks you’ve seen in the evening news in recent months.  But, she was graduated from the most expensive college in the country, and she winds up having a brain as well as a heart, and the march goes on.

Zac Phelps is Bobby Strong, who starts the revolution, and Lilliangina Quiñones is the meanie Miss Pennywise.  Liane LeMaster directed this large scale production and the live music combo is under the direction of Laura Gamble.   You have to admire the ability of this small company to pull off a production of this scale, and do it so well.  More info and tickets at Act3Productions.org


The Savannah Sipping Society

The Savannah Sipping Society
OnStage Atlanta
through April 30, 2017

Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten love to craft comedies under the pseudonym of Jones Hope Wooten.  They usually focus on groups of ladies as they try to work their way through disasters in the making.

In this one, you meet up with four women in Savannah, each of whom has her own story to tell, and own problems to deal with.  Randa (Abra Thurmond) is an architect who has recently been laid off from the firm where she worked.  She has some financial concerns about keeping the house she recently renovated.

She meets up with Marlafaye (Judith Beasley) who is a older hot chick who has some deep feelings about the Ex who is in Texas.  And when they run into one another Randa invites Marlafaye and this other gal, Dot (Bobbie Elzey), who is trying to get through the loss of her spouse,  to come over to her place for a drink.  And the stage is set, as a mere cuppa or sip of something is a start to a much deeper affiliation.

Actually, one of the gals had also invited a fourth to join them, and Randa and the others meet up with a new gal in town named Jinx (Lory Cox) who feels she has a new budding career as a life coach.  Lory played this part in the premiere of this latest of their works in Buford, this past year.

Cathe Hall Payne must have really enjoyed directing this show, with the hilarious lines and scenes.  Just when you think there is nothing more than could go awry, it does.  Just as Grandma (Angie Short) who shows up at the end of Act I.

A good set, splendid actors, and great script and everything weaves several tales into one.  If you enjoyed any of the other shows by the team known as Jones Hope Wooten, or love the reruns of Golden Girls, then you know you must get to see this one.

Easy to get to in their current venue on East Ponce near the DeKalb Farmers Market.  More info and tickets at OnstageAtlanta.com


Million Dollar Quartet

Million Dollar Quartet
Georgia Ensemble Theatre    
through April 23, 2017

It is brilliant that some of our local theaters now co-produce shows.  For the patrons it means they may not have to schlep 20+ miles for a show they wish were closer to home; but for the theatre companies it saves money on sets, costumes, rehearsal dates and more.  So this high energy show which opened earlier in Marietta is now in Roswell at Georgia Ensemble.  If you didn’t see it in Marietta, you will want to make sure to see it in Roswell.  Or, maybe enjoy it once again even if you did see it before.

Chris Damiano directed this one down to the last note, (pun intended) and the cast of 8 players really gets your blood flowing as they open with Blue Suede Shoes and work their way through 23 numbers, which for so many of us AARP members takes us back to the days of our youth.

Sun Records had a pretty basic studio in Memphis.  It was the birthplace of Rock & Roll, as founder Sam Phillips put out records for several performers who were destined to soar into fame with their Rock and R&B numbers.  He was the first to record Elvis and Johnny Cash.   The one-act of total excitement is set at the studio.

A young piano player wants to get his work out.  You’ll thoroughly enjoy seeing Ethan Parker in his role as Jerry Lee Lewis, and he makes those 88 keys really rock.  The show is set on December 4, 1956 when four now-famous players wind up jamming at Sun.  Carl Perkins (Christopher Kent) and Johnny Cash (Chris Damiano) show up.   Carl isn’t too happy with Jerry Lee as back up.  Then Elvis (Chase Peacock) drops by with his lady friend, Dyanne (Alison Brannon Wilhoit).

Sun’s owner, Sam Phillips (Justin D. Thompson), has some problems, as some of the men are going to move on to other larger recording companies, regardless that Sam is the one who gave them their first break.  The story is about the music, and Ethan Parker is incredible on the keyboard, while the other three quartet members really are great on guitars.  Alison has some numbers to sing, and the gang is backed up by Kroy Presley on bass and Andrew Patton on the drums.

The show opened this week to pretty full houses, and certainly deserves it.  It is impossible not to enjoy it and get excited by the music.  When selecting your seats try to get on the left side of the house, where you will have the better view of Ethan’s playing.  But, if you snooze you lose.  Few seats remain for most days.  More info and tickets at GET.org


Pais de Bicicleta

Pais de Bicicleta
Aurora Theatre
through April 30, 2017

Back in the 1990’s tens of thousands of Cubans fled their homeland in hope of finding a better life in these United States.  It is a tale akin to those who had to leave everything in the 1940’s.  And it resonates for it still takes place in today’s world as Syrians strive to survive.

Nilo Cruz and his parents escaped to Miami in 1970 on a Freedom Flight.  He knows of what he writes, and wrote this one to deliver the angst, the hope, and the dedication to audiences whether they could understand the Spanish or read the projected English translations.

The Aurora’s Anthony P. Rodriguez comes onstage as Julio.  Julio has had an injury and needs some therapy and help, and Ines (Limara Meneses Jiménez) may have been a bit reluctant at the outset, but she delves deeply into the situation with Julio and his friend, Pepe.  Juan Carlos Unzueta is Pepe, and he and Julio really get into it in quite a few scenes.

When they decide they are going to make a run for it, the first thing is how to do so.  They manage to get a raft together into which the three of them can cram in, and try to paddle the 90+ miles from Havana to Florida.  They spend 5 days at sea, and no vessel comes by and spots them and offers refuge.  They have limited nourishment, and experience some traumatic instances of disorientation and fear.

We sit there thinking that they just have to get their feet on the sand of a Florida beach, and they are safe.  For we had a different policy vis-a-vis immigration in those days.   You need to see the show to experience the voyage and the outcome thereof.

The show’s title in English would be A Bicycle Country; and if you recall those days, you know that the embargo kept cars from being shipped to Cuba, and the only cars there were old ones which would have been junked were they here.

Georgina Escobar directed this highly energetic production, which runs about 90 minutes without an intermission.  It is part of the Aurora’s outreach to our growing Latino community, and they are to be applauded for their efforts.   Get more info and tickets at AuroraTheatre.com



Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar
Lyric Theatre
through April 23, 2017

The Right Honorable Lloyd-Webber wrote the score for this opus almost 50 years ago, and it is still playing somewhere on any day of the year.  If you think of his works such as Cats or Phantom, this ain’t of the same genre.  Lloyd-Webber with lyricist Tim Rice brought this timeless tale to the stage as a rock opera.

As such, you find the players in down-scale street attire, with a minimalist stage setting, and sometimes bombastic orchestration by an orchestra of 11 players downstage.  While there are about 20 numbers in the show, the only memorable ones seem to be I Don’t Know How to Love Him, and the title number.

This high energy production by the Lyric presents Haden Rider at Jesus, and Taylor Buice as Judas.  Mary is played by Adrianna Trachell and Googie Uterhardt appears as Herod.  There is a total cast of more than 20 players under the direction of Alan Kilpatrick.  Ricardo Aponte is the choreographer.

If you enjoyed the show before, you’ll enjoy this presentation.  Alas, if you weren’t really into it once before, you’ll not likely be revisiting them at the Last Supper; even though Easter is soon upon us.

The Lyric is on the 120 South Loop, just south of Marietta Square, with easy free parking, comfy seating, and all seats have good stage view.  You can get full into and tickets at AtlantaLyric.com


Simply Simone

Simply Simone
Theatrical Outfit
through April 15, 2017

Eunice Waymon was born in North Carolina in 1933.   She was part of a large family with a daily interest in music and singing.  At a very early age, she became quite versatile on the keyboards, particularly with standard classical works.

But, these were difficult times for Black musicians.  They were presumed to all be jazz players, and doing the boogie dances.  Eunice didn’t want to just be a typical lower class housewife.  She had her dreams; and her dreams took her to activities and places that nobody could have thought possible in her younger years.

Her first success, as it were, was playing piano in some bars.  But, to become a singer-player, and not cause some serious damage to her family; she adopted a stage name; and we knew her as Nina Simone.

Life wasn’t easy for Nina.  She had several marriages and more relationships outside thereof.  She was out front regarding women’s rights, the equality of Blacks, and Black performers, and didn’t fall short of expressing her anti-government feelings.  Uncle Sam wasn’t that keen for her; especially after her husband-manager cooked the books and she wound up owing the IRS a fortune in unpaid taxes.

She had flown the coop to the Caribbean, but some time later returned to the USA, only to hit the road again later on to Paris.  In the last quarter of the 19th century and first quarter of the 20th, Paris was the place that many Black artists of all types sought out.  It was their hood.  She died in 2003 in France at age 70.

In this play directed and choreographed by Patdro Harris, the story of Nina Simone’s life is related by four Ninas, who pull it off with great talent and energy.  Chelsea Reynolds, Chani Maisonet, Tina Fears and Marliss Amiea come and go as Nina and each of them is really great.   They run through more than 30 numbers which Nina had sung, and are backed up onstage by Chika Kaba Ma’atunde, and Ramon Pooser and Otis Gould.

They’re playing to very full houses, and their audiences are really getting into it, as they belt out the numbers.  The show closes next week, so you may wish to visit their website for more info and tickets.  TheatricalOutfit.org

Location is downtown on Luckie Street, and they have discount parking tickets for the adjacent garage.  It’s a high energy show running a little more than 2 hours.