Invasion: Christmas Carol

Invasion: Christmas Carol
Dad’s Garage
through December 29, 2019

They’ve done it again, again, again . . .and who else could stage a show with a substantial cast and a full script, and then let some different unscripted characters invade the show in each performance. The uninvited visitors are not known to the scripted actors and so once the invasion occurs they have to make up their own story lines and actions to deal with it.

The Scrooge you see isn’t the Scrooge you and your kids know. In fact, this is not for the kiddies, but for open-minded adults who would like an evening of enjoyment with plenty of single entendres. You will enjoy when Scrooge tries to form some connection with the unexpected visitor, and although it veers way off course many times, there is a story about some old geezer who thinks Christmas is a humbug.

Ener if you have enjoyed the show in past years. there’s plenty else that’s new in this one, as the main cast has to improvise to deal with some invader they didn’t know was coming until about 5 minutes before curtain time. On a preview night he got visited by Rip Taylor’s ghost who had all of Taylor’s moves and schticks down pat. But, keep in mind that the invader changes every night. Who knows what evil may lurk in the minds of men? But by the time the ghost of Christmas future shows up things seem more Dickensian.

Dad’s Garage is located in a former church on Ezzard St, down in the Old Fourth Ward. You can get online driving directions. Plenty of free parking and come early to enjoy the concessions area with cabaret style seating. This one runs about 2 hours, which includes an intermission.

Their gift to you is that they often have an improv show which follows, and you are invited to hang in for more laughs. More info and tickets at DadsGarage.com


A Nice Family Gathering







A Nice Family Gathering
Stage Door Players
through December 8, 2019

If you saw A Nice Family Christmas last year, then you will understand that this is the prequel, by Phil Olsen. Robert Egizio directed the cast of seven players, five of whom had appeared in the Christmas production.

This time the family is getting together for a Thanksgiving meal, and the mother (Dina Shadwell) is doing her best, albeit she seems to have lost a few of her marbles. Her son Carl (Erik Poger Abrahamsen) is trying to eke out a living as a journalist, but that isn’t providing much to live on, so his day job is driving a truck for the Pillsbury Doughboy. He sees himself as a loser, compared to his brother, Michael (Jeff K. Lester) who has become a doctor-a-doctor and has the prizes including a large home and his new MBW. He has a secret he hasn’t shared with the family as yet.

Michael’s wife, Jill (Alexandra Ficken), has some deep emotional issues relating to becoming a mother, and she reacts to many comments which may come from the mouths of the in-laws. And Stacey (Madison Welch) is the third sibling and is single, and she also has her secret which has yet to surface. There are two characters who push the others into a frenzy. One is the ghost of their Dad (James Baskin), who shows up to get Carl to do some of his bidding relating to some family issues. While Carl can see and hear the ghost, he is the only one that can do so.

Then things go awry when an old neighbor friend, Jerry (Rial Ellsworth), shows up on Turkey Day and the ghost of days gone by, goes bananas, and all hell breaks loose. But, this is a holiday show, so fear not; all comes out right in the end. If some of the characters seem as if they were drawn from real life, just think of your own family and how some days it is hard to put fun back into dysfunctional.

Stage Door Players is in Dunwoody, easy to get to with free parking and good seating. More info at StageDoorPlayers.net


A Christmas Carol







A Christmas Carol
Alliance Theatre
through December 24, 2019

It’s back again, and this time in the new Coca Cola Theatre at Woodruff Arts Center. Scrooge is played to the hilt by David DeVries, who now owns that role, and never fails to delight. Add to the mix the poor Mr. Fezziwig played once again by Bart Hansard, as well as Karah Adams as Tiny Tim and Tess Malis Kincaid as the Ghost of Christmas Past and a total of more than 20 players in many more roles, with live music from Michael Fauss and his two associates, some great evil scenes, and the wonderful set by D. Martyn Bookwalter, and you have a truly incredible presentation.

Directed again by an Alliance veteran of 24 years, Rosemary Newcott, and being presented to full houses who are loving it soooo much. They even invite you to sing along in a couple of numbers.

Scrooge could be a poster boy for the non-caring greed which often seems to be prevalent in our society. I doubt it would be very moving for most of the politicians, bankers and lobbyists that we’ve had to listen to in recent weeks. In the Victorian era Dickens was railing about the greed which permeated British society. People were sent to work houses and jails when they couldn’t pay a debt. Can recalling events of days past or seeing the unhappy future of persons other than one’s self really provide the epiphany for redemption? It does perhaps once again bring to mind the comments of George Santayana, who opined “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” How we see that coming true around the world on a daily basis. Just tune into the news. . . . So much of it is just pure Humbug.

There are some scary scenes, especially when the ghost of Christmas future comes to visit Ebenezer. So, if you are thinking of taking the wee ones, make sure it’s a story they know or could handle. And no worries as every seat in the new venue has very good visibility.

So may we all wassail and hope that the year to come shall be one of joy and health for every one, around the world. For show times and tickets just visit AllianceTheatre.org


Baby : The Musical






Baby : The Musical
Act3 Playhouse
through November 24, 2019

For a small local theatre company, this is pretty large scale production with a cast of 11 players, a six piece band, and working through two dozen numbers which move the story along. It deals with three couples, in different age groups, dealing with the expected affects of a new family member coming to them.

A couple of young music students in their early 20’s have two or more issues. The girl (Abi Sneathen) has become pregnant, but is not concerned about being married or not. As we know, many younger folks now live together for some number of years before they may actually take their vows. Might be a good idea, as you don’t need a divorce if you wish to move on in your life. The boy (Brandon Deen) is more concerned about tying the knot, as he feels responsible for what is about to occur.

An older couple (Lisa Reich & Chris Davis) already have 3 kids and are empty nesters who never thought that she might be with child again in her 40’s There are serious doubts and concerns and possibly considering abortion vs. birthing. Then is a third couple (Kate Metroka & Brian Slayton) who are deeply in love and over the moon with anticipation of their baby’s arrival.

While I can’t tell you who does what and how, there are many issues which come into focus. A woman may not actually be pregnant, a man may not have good sperm counts, one couple has to follow a regimen to help her become pregnant, and more. One of the women in her third trimester becomes the focus of attraction for a load of other women who relate their own experiences to her. Not that she wishes to hear about it. One of the women finally gives birth at a hospital as the story goes to the end.

There were more gents in the audience than I might have expected, considering the theme of the show. While it may be more of a ladies night out gig; it certainly plays well to men who have been down that road and/or respect and understand what life means for a woman these days.

Caty Bergmark directed the show which moves easily through about 2 hours with one intermission. The location is in Sandy Springs right behind Trader Joe’s, and more info is at Act3Productions.org


Bring It On: the Musical

Bring It On: The Musical
KSU College of the Arts
through November 17, 2019

This is another truly professional production by KSU Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, staged on campus at the Stillwell Theatre. This is a show with deep roots to our area for several reasons; most significantly that the premiere of this play was staged at the Alliance in 2011, went to NYC, and has been playing around the world since then. If the music reminds you of Hamilton, it’s because it was composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda in collaboration with Tom Kitt.

There is a cheer leaders group at a white high school where there is jealousy at work for a second-stringer who wants to become captain. And there’s a rap group at a nearby black high school which doesn’t really dig that honky stuff. Until the ousted bitch from that other school gets them into changing their performance Crew into a cheering Squad. Then they face off in the nationals; and as they do so, they all find the true meaning of life.

This is a musical, but like Hamilton, you may not leave the theater humming or singing one of the numbers And if you have an AARP card you may have to ask the person sitting next to you if he knows those words you just missed. What it is though, is a highly athletic and balletic performance by a large cast of young and highly motivated cast. They do tumbles, pyramids, flips and so much more and when some of the girls fly off to the arms of their catchers you are going to breath a sign of relief as they are safely caught.

Directed by Justin Anderson, whose works you have seen on many stages around Atlanta, and with a cast of more than 20 highly energetic and professional student performers, some of whom are the actual KSU cheerleaders, this one rocks. The Lead is Campbell (Annaliese Bauer), who was leading the Squad at Truman High School. But, somehow there was some redistricting and she got reassigned to Jackson High. And in the days when Brown vs. the Board of Education hadn’t taken full effect. The story goes deeper when it comes to be known that her competitor, Eva (Danielle Lorentz), happened to be the daughter of a woman on the board which arranged the redistricting. Kind of brings to mind parents who bribed the way into UCLA for some of their “athletic” offspring.

If I had to pick one of the energetic cast to single out as a scene stealer it would have to be Courtney McCullar who plays Bridget, who seems akin to Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. You just can’t help rooting for her.

Will the young folks enjoy it? For sure, and every seat in the house was enthralled. They are pretty much SRO for remaining performances, so reserve you tickets now at KSUtheatre.com



Atlanta Fringe Festival

The Atlanta Fringe Festival’s objective is to provide opportunities to many deserving arts creators who might not otherwise find a great number of venues in which to display their talents and abilities.

And this pas week they brought to town the one-woman show, Josephine, which has been touring for three years and even played overseas. Tymisha Harris works the house as Josephine Baker, in this deeply moving biography which was created by her in association with Michael Marinaccio and Tod Kimbro, working together down in Orlando area.

If you have some concept of what this nation was like in the early days of the twentieth century you may recall that many black artists and performers, including jazz musicians left these shores to live and work in Paris, which in those days was the cultural center of the universe.

Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis, and had a very tumultuous life. She started her career in the USA but in the 1920’s segregation was still the normal situation be it at restaurants, hotels or more. And she stood up for herself and for women of color and women in general. She hadn’t risen to the heights in America, but when she went to Paris she was an instant hit, even playing at Folies Bergère and even in north Africa.

She adopted quite a few children, of diverse origins which often she referred to as her Rainbow Tribe, and she was very active with the NAACP and other groups fighting for equal rights.

She became known as the Black Pearl, and other nicknames as she became a world attraction. When World War II broke out she was in her 30’s and actually became a spy for the Allies, carrying intel messages across border in her undies. She was deeply involved with Grace Kelly who helped her through some difficult times, and when her days were over in 1975 at age 68, she was buried in Monaco.

After the war French President Charles de Gaulle bestowed membership to her in the French Legion of Honor for all of the great help she had been to so many. But, life wasn’t always a bed of roses. When she had come back to the USA she’d received lousy reviews, had been accused of being a communist, denied service in some restaurants, and since she had renounced her American citizenship and was then a French National, she even had her visa revoked.

She is a idol of so many. And if you think those problems are gone forever, don’t read the news or watch it on TV. For as the French would say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” For info on upcoming events in the Atlanta Fringe Festival just visit them at AtlantaFringe.org



Actor’s Express
through December 1, 2019

Ferocious playwright Theresa Rebeck has brought some eerie personalities to the stage in this work. Irene (Mary Lynn Owen) is a housewife whose life is mostly cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping and being submissive to her control-freak husband, Gerry (William S. Murphey).

The play takes place in the basement of Irene and Gerry’s home, on a really great set by Isabel & Moriah Curley-Clay. It kind of made me think how maybe I could clean up some of my garage junk. Irene’s younger brother, Teddy (Travis Smith), has moved in to the basement and is sleeping on some old couch and dining mostly on dry cereals.

And then the story starts to get stranger. Teddy is working on a “project” about which he says nothing, other than he has no money. He’s doing something with a really old computer down there where the monitor is an old style CRT. He claims he is on leave from his job, albeit we have idea if he is being straight about that one. And, he also tells Irene about some terrible afflictions imposed upon him by fellow employees.

Gerry, isn’t happy about having some crazy in-law living in his basement, and he wants him gone. And NOW. What is a basis of most of the play is that Teddy has made his psychological evaluation of Gerry, and thinks him to be possessed. Of course, Gerry feels that Teddy is a nut case, and they get into it face to face.

What is more important is that Irene finally stands up for herself and there are some secrets she has figured out that make her even more determined to rescue herself, since nobody else can do that for her.

Directed by Donya K. Washington, as her swan song local gig before hitting the road for a new position out west. The show is rife with screaming and some loud bangs that will possibly make you reel back in your seat. It is not for the kiddies, nor many of the Ms. Prims. Although some may think it possibly could be done in two acts, it is just one which is about 105 minutes, and it is a really good job done by all. More info at Actors-Express.com


Swell Party

Swell Party
Process Theatre
through November 24, 2019

Playwright Topher Payne is one of those who can read about an event and see it through different eyes. In this case he goes back to the Reynolds family estate in Winston-Salem in 1932, when a family member may have committed suicide. But then, maybe not; but he was found dead. In real life nobody to these days can state with certainty what actually happened; even if they had read the transcript. Oops . . . different mystery case still pending.

Suehyla El-Attar directs a cast of players, many of whole leave stage and return in flashbacks which could get a little confusing for some of us who can’t recall our phone numbers or names. Betty Mitchell plays the head of the household, Kate Reynolds, and she has a go-fer, Babe (Bryn Striepe) who is quite a number; often behaving as if she were family not an employee. Each actor is in a stereotype role.

The sage churns around the young aviator, Smith, a/k/a Smitty Reynolds (Parker Fox Ciliax). Smitty is smitten with flying, albeit he isn’t always quite certain where he may find himself landing. He becomes enamored of an aspiring actor, Libby (Amanda Cucher) who he quickly weds even though she isn’t quite the Reynolds’ type. Libby has a coach who is a gypsy-like weirdo, Blanche (Jennifer Lee), and Blanche may know some things, or suspect them, but seems to be a gossip monger.

The estate manager is Albert a/k/a Ab (Matthew Busch) and he has some concerns as to what he’s doing and where he’s heading, while serving his days doing his mistress’ wishes. And before the rest of the constabulary invade the premises to go over the crime scene and remove the body, the investigator and family friend, Mr. McMichael (DeWayne Morgan) is trying to get some facts down in writing as well as on an old style recorder. Too bad Alexa wasn’t there . . .

This is not the typical riotous Topher Payne opus. Yes, there are plenty of one-liners, and some comedy rising from tragedy, as you sit there asking yourself who did what, when and how. And, as your own family members might tell you; you are entitled to your own opinion, . . . but you’re wrong.

The production by the Process Theatre is performed at OnStage Atlanta. It is well done, and maybe a little over done, time-wise as it runs almost 2.5 hours. Mor info is at OnStageAtlanta.com


Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
through November 9, 2019

The ASO under the baton of Principal Guest Conductor, Donald Runnicles, the orchestra brought to life two grand pieces this week. They opened with Shostakovich’s final opus, his Symphony #15. It’s a pretty convoluted work, and the Maestro gave a talk about the composer’s mind-set and life in under the days of Stalin; who was not a great fan of his works.

This one started out to be based on a toy story line, and he did borrow a theme from Rossini’s Opera of William Tell dating back to 1829. Of course others, like the Lone Ranger have also found those bars quite enjoyable.

After intermission, James Ehnes came stage center to treat us to Tchaikovsky’s famous Concerto for Violin in D major. And he blew the house down. Ehnes is an Artist in Residence with the Dallas Symphony, and is highly energetic. He’s also one who plays all the Beethoven sonatas in venues around the world.

This concert has only 2 more performances, Friday the 8th and Saturday the 9th.

If you miss this one, or if you enjoyed it, know that the ASO in their 75th season will have more coming up. November 14 and 16 they will perform Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand. And before Thanksgiving they will present a world premier of a work they commissioned, Onward, by Brian Raphael Nabors, together with Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Brahms Concerto for Piano and Orchestra #1 with Emanuel Ax on the piano.

More info always online at AtlantaSymphony.org


La Cenerentola

La Cenerentola
Atlanta Opera
through November 10, 2019

You know the usual story of Cinderella, as crafted by the Grimm Brothers in the early 1800’s. But this is not quite the same. Around 1817 Gioachino Rossini adapted a lot of it into his Comic Opera. It is a pure delight to all your senses be you 8 or 88 years of age.

Joan Font has come to town to stage this one, and a grand job it is indeed. Yes, there is the abused young scullery maid who is known as Angelina (Emily Fons). She has those two egocentric step-sisters, Clorinda (Bryn Holdsworth) and Thisbe (Elizabeth Sarian) each of whom has the hots for a prince who is coming to town and will host a ball, as he searches for a soul mate. But, many of the folks who stop by are not whom they pretend to be. For the prince, and his valet take on each other’s persona while the valet susses out who’s who and what’s wanted. Of course poor Angelina is disinvited to the ball by her pompous step-father, Don Magnifigo (Dale Travis)

Guess what . . . she manages to dress up, get out, get noticed, and then get back to the hovel before the Don manages to come back. Ergo, he assumes the gorgeous woman everyone envied at the affair, just happened to look somewhat like Angelina. He was such a jerk he could have run for office is office holders were elected rather than being heirs apparent in those days.

Emily Fons belts out her numbers as a real coloratura, and every member of the cast is really a delight. As the story progresses, there are a couple of dozen sentries and quite a few rodents who spend a lot of time on the set. It isn’t easy being an operatic mouse, that’s for sure. But nobody gets trapped, except the two nasty gals, who get a pardon from the newly crowned princess.

There are both a full orchestra in the pit, under the baton of Dean Williamson, and a chorus of more than 20 singers with chorus master Rolando Salazar. This is another one where you want to stand and shout Thank You to Tomer Zvulun for the great job he has done with the Atlanta Opera.

Of course there are projected super-titles in English, even though you get the gist of the story even without them. Like the one number in Act II, when they sing how twisted stories lines get even more screwed up when you try to unwind them. Reminds one that the best asset of a good liar is a perfect memory. There are but 3 more performances at the Cobb Energy Center, November 5, 8 and 10. So get more info at AtlantaOpera.org.