The Dixie Swim Club

The Dixie Swim Club
OnStage Atlanta
through October 1, 2017

Three playwrights, Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten came together to craft a load of comedies and they have done so under the pseudonym of Jones Hope Wooten. OnStage presented their Savannah Sipping Society this past April, and now has staged The Dixie Swim Club to provide even more laughter.

We meet five gals who have stuck together as BBFs since their school days and being in the swim club. They come together for a week every August at a cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Each of the five has her own “stuff” to deal with.

There is one egocentric vamp played by Phyllis H. Giller, who has certain priorities in life. A hard working lawyer who hopes to find her big win one of these days, is played by Lateefah D. Mosley. Vernadette (Lory Cox) is one of those gals for whom anything which could go wrong does; and Bobbie Elzey was Sheree, the swim club’s tea captain who figures she still is in charge. Then they have a fifth gal who became a nun, but left the convent to become a mom. Jeri Neal is played by Cat Roche.

If the show reminds one of Only a Bridesmaid, or some episode of Golden Girls, it’s because these playwrights crafted those as well as many other works; and if there is one thing they know how to do, it is to evoke the humor in every day lives.

Directed by Cathe Hall Payne, the story takes place over more than 30 years as these ladies meet up in 1982, then 1987 and in Act 2 we find them gracefully aging in 1992 and 2015. Well, gracefully may not be the adjective they would endorse. This is a chick show to be sure, but the guys in the audience were guffawing as loudly as the ladies and enjoying every minute of the show. It is pretty poignant inasmuch as one of their reunions is thwarted by a storm. Thankfully, not like Irma.

If you would prefer good times and good humor over politicians and news channels, then my suggestion would be to turn off the boob tube and grab seats for this one. Easy to get to, free parking, nice coffee bar, and who could ask for more? For more info and tickets visit their website at OnstageAtlanta.com



Cirque du Soleil
through November 19, 2017

What a treat that Cirque has returned to downtown under their Grand Chapiteau at Atlantic Station. Most Cirque shows are very much into acrobatics and this is no exception, except for the use of some real water pouring down onto the circular stage which collects it and sends it back up. The water is enhanced by some crafty electronic projections, and is a delight.

The show is allegedly about Mexico and what a treat to have it here, absent anybody talking about wall building. Cirque is the largest circus company in the world, and performers from around the world are privileged to work with them. This troupe has plenty of members from eastern Europe but actually also has some from Mexico and the USA.

Like any circus there has to be a clown (Eric Fool Koller) who works the audience while the sets and costumes are changed for the next act. This show features about 18 acts, performed in two segments of about an hour each, with a half hour intermission. It is a show that you can not be disappointed with.

In the second act you’ll meet two performers who are absolutely top of their class in every respect.  Juggler Rudolph Janecek from the Czech Republic holds the Guinness World Record in his work, and Aleksei Goloborodko from Russia is a contortionist beyond the limits of his profession. While there are no high wire or slack wire acts, the double swing acts are mind-blowing.

Easy to get to Atlantic Station, plenty of garage parking, and an exciting venue for kids from 5 to 95. Tickets and more info at CirqueduSoleil.com/luzia


Once on This Island

Once on This Island
Georgia Ensemble Theatre
through October 1, 2017

This one-act musical about the goings on in an island in the French Antilles, is so very poignant when we think of what has happened in the wake of Irma.

The story is derived from a book about star crossed lovers, My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, and there are some of Romeo and Juliet sewn in. You meet a peasant girl on the side of the island never visited by the tourists. Ti Moune, the little girl (Myshay Pretty), is found by a couple who adopt and care for her. When she grows up she runs into a fellow, who has suffered a terrible injury, and she cares for him and helps him to regain his health. Daniel, the gent from the posh side of the island is played by Christian Magby and India Tyree is the adult Ti Moune.

The show is about love found, lost, refound and life in general. The show is very Caribbean, reminding one of some native areas in Haiti, where the hotels are up in the hills and the peons get by below and rarely do they meet. S. Renee Clark directed the live music performed from a niche at stage left, and this one is both choreographed and directed by Ricardo Aponte. It is on a fine set and with very colorful costumes.

The show runs about 90 minutes. What is so interesting is that this one took the stage in 1990 in NYC, and this coming November it will open at The Circle in the Square in NYC.

The cast of 11 players bring incredible talent and athleticism to the stage. Georgia Ensemble is easy to get to in Roswell with free parking and good views from all seats. More info at GET.org



Throw me on the Burnpile and Light me Up

Throw me on the Burnpile and Light me Up
Aurora Theatre
through October 1, 2017

Prize winning playwright Lucy Alibar wrote this see-through mirror of memories and actually took it to the stage herself a year ago. It is both an honor and a delight that the Aurora has now brought it to their stage with Taylor M. Dooley as the young girl.

She’s part of a tight-knit family down in the Panhandle near a watermelon farm. And she shares with us her memories of growing up there with some weird animals as well as a not-your-usual kind of family.

Her father is a lawyer who just does pro-bono work for clients charged with capital offenses. It’s not because the family is well off; it is perhaps more because of his basic belief that every person deserves a defender, and it validates his being when he is such.

The nameless girl we meet shares with us her stories about her mother, usually referred to as Boss Lady, and her brother who is referred to as The Son Of, while her father generally refers to the girl as Boss. Although they live in a deep southern part of the Bible Belt, father is an atheist who has no love of any deity, albeit he is one who believes in doing what is right.

The girl tells about her life with her family as she grew up, and also the problems encountered in her primary grade years with teachers and classmates. And the set is primarily a burn pile, where the father tosses all the artifacts which remain after a client is put down, and the locals line up for the free fries at the local fast food joint.

I have to tell you that I am not a great fan of one act shows which run about 90 minutes, after I have driven 60 to get there; nor of monologues which sometimes make me feel like I have been attending a lecture. But, this is not that sort of show. Taylor absolutely captivates the audience and while the story is one with pathos, there is humor aplenty in it.

It is a terrific show directed by Rachel Parish, with a backdrop set designed by Elizabeth Jarrett. I stand in wonder of actors as talented as Taylor, who can recall 90 minutes of lines, while I have trouble remembering where I may have parked the car. This is an excellent show. More info at AuroraTheatre.com



Dad’s Garage
through October 7, 2017

Dad’s Garage is possibly best known for it’s years of improv theatre. But, they occasionally delve into some pretty loony scripted works. And, this one is one of the biggest they have ever staged.

Presented as “A Parody Musical” it is a look at Star Wars from the viewpoint of the Ewoks, and is an non-stop riot for those who understand what came before. Book and some lyrics by Travis Sharp with music and some other lyrics by Haddon Kime, the show features a cast of 9 players in some very unusual costumes. If you weren’t deeply into Star Wars then you may have a bit of trouble trying to deduce WTF is going on. But, if so, just ask those nerds sitting next to you. They’ll explain it.

Karen Cassady plays Wicket, who is a small Ewok. Wicket is enamored of the Princess Kneesaa (Alyssa Engelhoff) but has a problem. Seems that size matters, and that’s a big problem for a little Ewok. Googie Unterhardt is a terror as The Emperor, whose theory is that everybody and everything is supposed to be his. I hope he doesn’t run for office here next time.

Some of the other Ewoks are there including Princess Leia (Eliana Marianes), Roadie (Reed Pendergrass), Latara (Alice Garriga), Chirpa (Joseph Ndoum) and Longray (Rickey Boynton). And the operatic number by Jayme Alilaw brought down the house.

No, you’re not going to leave the house humming the tunes, nor recall most of the words, but you are going to have a very unusual and enjoyable trip into the other world.   It is surely not for the wee kiddies nor the Miss Prims; but it is a very well staged production under the direction of Rick Lombardo. As he defined the show, “It is the Battle of Endor told entirely from the Ewoks point of view.”

Dad’s garage is located a little south of Little Five Points. You can ask your phone how to get to 569 Ezzard Street, or if you are some old geezer look at one of those old printed map things. More info and tickets at DadsGarage.com



Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love
Alliance Theatre at Oglethorpe
through September 24, 2017

It’s been several years since the heart-breaking loss of the Georgia Shakespeare theatre at Oglethorpe University. So what a joy it is to have the Alliance Theatre bring this one to the stage, with Richard Garner directing, and many of the former cast members of the Shakespeare company.

This production has a large cast of two dozen players. Ok, maybe 23 and the dog “Spot” makes 24. But the play’s the thing and this one based on the film of the same name is a load of fun. Come back in time to London in the late 1500’s. A time when a woman was not allowed on the stage. And there were problems aplenty. For without a typewriter, Will had to take his quill and scribble out every line of a script. He’s just had some success with Two Gentlemen of Verona, but is under a lot of pressure to deliver up another script, and he’s dealing with writers’ block, big time.

Thomas Azar plays Will, and he goes for Viola, played by Bethany Anne Lind. But, nothing is easy. Viola has been promised by her dad to marry Lord Wessex (Joe Knezevich) but she’s not inclined to do so. And to start off, Will is getting some inspiration from Marlowe (Thomas Neal Antwon Ghant). You’ll also get a kick out of the Queen, played by Tinashe Kajese-Bolden. It seems that a play about Romeo and Ethel may not quite fill the bill. Then when the theatre gets shut down for violation of the rules against women on stage; what’s a playwright and performing company to do?

The costumes and set designs were by Angela Balogh Calin and work so well. The costumes are astoundingly great, especially her majesty’s get-up. And the fight scenes, choreographed by Scot J. Mann are superb.

The Conant Performing Arts Center is a first class theatre, at Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven. Free parking, a patio where you can picnic before the show, and every seat in the house has a perfect view of the stage. The show runs about 2.5 hours with an intermission, and it’s one you will want to see and won’t forget. More info and tickets at AllianceTheatre.com


My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady
Lyric Theatre
through September 3, 2017

This is one you’ll want to see . . it is certainly a Theatre Classic. As previously seen a couple of years ago, the work is done with two piano players onstage, providing the score, rather than an orchestra in the pit.  But the onstage music and the quickly changed props on the otherwise somewhat stark set works quite well as Prof. Henry Higgins’ residence on Wimpole Street.

You know the story.  Higgins (Mark Bradley Miller) runs into a Cockney flower girl who has a real East End accent. That’s Eliza Doolittle, played so well by Galen Crawley, who has everything it takes to be center stage at any time. Higgins is kind of into himself in many ways; but he gets into a bet with a chap, Col. Pickering (Rob Roper) and takes this lass, to turn her into a proper sounding lady.

There are some bumps along the way, such as when he brings her to the Ascot Derby Race, and when she gets involved with Freddy Hill (Chris Saltalmacchio). And, don’t forget that chap who was getting married, her dad, Alfie Doolittle, played by George Devours.  The cast is rounded out with all first class players who perform spot-on under the direction of Scott Seidl.

But, the bottom line is that what a musical is all about is the music. And while few of us recall the entire play list from My Fair Lady, we will want to sing along on some of them, such as I Could Have Danced All Night, and we could just see Eliza thinking Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, getting away from the cold night air and thinking where the rain in Spain may stay.

Yes, . . . this one has been around for quite a while. But, it is sooooo much better that anything on the idiot box. A comfortable theatre with free parking, good sound systems, totally professional in every way. So, check them out at AtlantaLyric.com

I am serious. It’s a fine evening (or matinee) and I’m not a Little Critter, as Alfie woulda said . . .


Forever Plaid

Forever Plaid
Marietta Theatre Company
through September 2, 2017

While this is one that resonates profoundly with the AARP crowd, it is one that audiences of any age will enjoy. Come back to the 1950’s and 60’s when we had maybe 3 or 4 TV channels, and we gathered to watch Milton Berle or Ed Sullivan as a group each week. It was a time when there were quite a few male quartet harmony groups doing their numbers. And high-schoolers thought it was a real experience to make out in the back seat of that Chevy.

The night that those four young men from England were about to debut on the Ed Sullivan show, one of the harmony four were rammed by a school bus heading to the show. Alas, none of the four survived. Stuart Ross created this show, which played in NYC from 1989 to 1994, and was later adapted into a film in 2009.

Eric Lang, John Jenkins, Keenan Rogers and Daniel Pino come on as the singers. They wanted to perform with plaid costumes and they come back from the afterlife to be forever plaid and sing their numbers. With Shane Simmons on the keys, they run through more than two dozen numbers in a cabaret style setting, and you can clap your hands, click your fingers and sing along as you wish.

The show runs as two acts, and in the second act they camp things up really well as they are imagining performing on a variety show, and they’ll bring back many old time performers’ schticks that most of us will recall.

The show is presented at the Lyric Studio on the Square, which is the black box stage behind the New Theatre in the Square. The company is a new one and this is the first of their first full season of five productions. They are a group of very hard working and talented performers who provide a very enjoyable couple of hours without commercials.

More info at MariettaTheatre.com


An American in Paris

An American in Paris – A New Musical
Fox Theatre
through August 20, 2017

Hurry, hurry, hurry. Only two more days until An American in Paris will close here and hit the road on their incredible tour.

This is one of the best produced and performed shows in quite a while. It is a adapted from the film of the same name, but is basically the same story. After WWII a GI named Jerry (McGee Maddox) decides that he really loves being in Paris and decides to stay there and follow his love of being an artist. He meets and falls in love with a dancer named Lise (Sara Esty) who wants to follow her dreams as well.

But things get involved when she is being pushed to wed Henri (Nick Spangler) who really isn’t into that quite as much as his mother is. And unknown to Jerry and his friend Adam (Etai Benson) they’re trying to push Henri into asking for the hand of this un-named potential fiancé. And so the story goes of three guys and one girl and where it will end . . .

This show is one with incredible rear screen projections, great lighting and costumes and a live orchestra in the pit. Understand that this work was originally composed by George Gershwin as a ballet in 1928 and his brother, Ira, did the lyrics. When this adaptation opened in 2015 in NYC it won a bunch of awards including Tonys for choreography, lighting design, orchestration and scenic design. And they sure deserved it all.

The huge cast includes dozens of dancers of highest quality and when you see one of the numbers in Act II, you’ll swear you were in Radio City Music Hall. Kudos to the Dance Captains, performers and designers. And, yes, there is a story inside the story and I am not going to get into it. For it is for you to see and hear. But, the GPRF (Provisional Government of the French Republic), had it’s problems to deal with even after the German surrender.

Bottom line is this is a first class production directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, and one that you don’t want to miss. They’ve got rhythm and you’ll want to build your own stairway to paradise while watching. The scrims are fairly wide, so advice is to try to get seats in orchestra center.



The Only Light in Reno

The Only Light in Reno
Out of Box Theatre
through August 26, 2017

Topher Payne obviously did a load of research into what went on fifty-six years ago when a film “The Misfits” was being shot in Reno and got shut down due to a huge forest fire.

The show is based upon some stories involving Montgomery Clift (Daniel Carter Brown), Marilyn Monroe (Bryn Striepe), Libby Holman (Jennifer Lee) Liz Taylor (Emily Sams) and Paula Strasberg (Carolyn Choe). The story line is somewhat obscured in the start but it deals with the personal habits and egotistical indulgences of these celebrities who may appear somewhat sane on screen, or in the media, but have troubles running their own lives.

It starts off with just Libby Holman, Marilyn and Monty dishing it out; but then Liz shows up and they start dishing the dirt about her and Eddie Fisher. That’s when things really get amped up. In the meantime there is Paula Strasberg, wife of the famed Lee Strasberg, who is trying to retain some semblance of sanity among these celebrities.

Directed by Matthew Busch, who had been connected to this work since it premiered 3 years ago. The set by Matthew and Topher Payne is Marilyn’s suite in the Reno hotel; which had a few problems such as no electricity, phones, or food service and the elevators trapping some guests, etc.

Bryn Striepe does a great job as Norma Jean Baker, whose Marilyn persona flew to the stars but flamed out at age 36. And Monty cashed out at 46. They all had their addictions and egos to deal with. So what else is new? Each member of the cast is spot-on and does a swell job with loads of lines, and the show runs about 2 hours 25 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.

I’m not sure the under 40 crowd is going to relate to a some of the history.   It is accurate and the author poured his all into crafting this one. It’s good to see that it’s been tweaked slightly, and has found it’s legs and will play around for quite a while. For as they know, the show, or the film, goes on as long as there’s a stage, or camera, and somebody who needs be in the lead.

More info and tickets at OutOfBoxTheatre.com