Ragtime, The Musical

Ragtime, The Musical
Serenbe Playhouse
through June 9, 2019

If you have been to Serenbe then you know they perform out of doors. But, with the lousy weather right now, please be advised that this show is performed under a tent, as many of the characters are like old time carnies.

The early 1900’s were not easy days. Factory workers felt they should be paid, women were discriminated against, black folks were considered as all low class, and new immigrants were about as welcome as they may be in these days.

This musical was based upon the book by E. L. Doctorow, who was an incredible writer, professor and researcher. You’ll find his works in every public library. He was the son of immigrants, lived in the Bronx, and knew of what he wrote.

Brian Clowdus, as Director, brings together a cast of 25 players, who are staged on a cabaret styled open stage and backed up with an eight piece band onstage under the baton of Chris Brent Davis; who with the great voices of the players work through 31 numbers in this opus which runs a little more than 2.5 hours.

Coalhouse Walker, Jr. wants to find his place in society and also at the keyboards. But that is not easy for a black gent in New Rochelle in 1902. Another part of the story deals with a white woman who takes in a black woman and baby; not to the greatest pleasure of her husband. And another story line is about the black man who goes wild and decides to become a terrorist at the J. P. Morgan Library.

So we deal with racial profiling and discrimination and the failure of our governments to provide equal justice to all. As the French might opine, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Just turn on the news and see where the crazy shooters were, how a woman can’t have control of her own body, the sexual pay differentials, difficulties for the LGBT, and politicians whose moving lips suggest they may be fibbing.

This major musical won 4 Tony’s when it hit the stage in NYC in 1998, and so much of it seems poignant even 20 years later. Serenbe is located off 85 south of Hartsfield, and is fairly easy to find. While they play in many areas in the community, there will be plenty of signage to get you to the open air free parking. Good views, plenty of goodies, and incredibly good productions. More info at SerenbePlayhouse.com


Director’s Choice

Director’s Choice
Atlanta Ballet
through May 12, 2019

This production is the finale for the Ballet’s current season. It will be at Cobb Energy Center today and tomorrow only.

Gennadi Nedvigin has brought Director’s Choice to the stage with a cast of more than 30 dancers, who work through 3 separate routines. An orchestra of more than 40 players is in the pit under the baton of Tara Simoncic.

The first of the three offerings is entitled Sum Stravinsky and is choreographed by Kiyon Ross with more than a dozen dancers to a fairly obscure Stravinsky score. The production is danced with a blank colored screen backdrop. Although before each of the three productions there is a filmed interview projected to explain to the audience what they are about to enjoy.

The second one is named Denouement and is danced to the music by Benjamin Britten by three ballerinas and three danseurs. The music isn’t your typical Britten score and the work is choreographed by Gemma Bond. Regardless of the name, it is not the final wrap up of the evening.

For after a second intermission the full cast of dancers comes together to render a premier performance of Catch, which is choreographed by Liam Scarlett and done to the music of Philip Glass. It is very energetic both in the score and the choreography and the audience went wild for it.

They will perform at Cobb Energy Center near 285 and 75, and there is plenty of garage parking should the weather be inclement. More info at AtlantaBallet.com


Things My Mother Taught Me

Things My Mother Taught Me
Centerstage North Theatre
through May 18, 2019

We all can recall things our mothers may have tried to teach us; like dining table and bathroom manners, and how to respect one’s parents. Katherine DiSavino took many of these things and crafted a funny play about a young couple moving from NYC to Chicago, and how anything that could go wrong seems to do so.

Gabe Lawson (Alex Doriot) and Oliva Keegan (Sorcha Masters) are the couple in their late twenties who intend to cohabitate. After all, isn’t that the way most couple start out these days? Gabe drove the rental truck to the new place and they start to unload, when a piece of furniture clogs up the doorway making things ore difficult.

While the two deal with that problem, another problem arrives. It’s Olivia’s parents, Karen (Marge Krengel) and Carter (James Connor). Karen has the usual mothers’ considerations and warnings about her daughter’s activities. And the stress starts to build up, as her father tries to hunker down.

Who could guess that Gabe’s parents would then arrive on the scene? Lydia (Gisele Frame) and Wyatt (Jim Wilgus) find themselves drawn into a situation which seems not to have any easy resolutions. I can’t tell you what the young couple had in mind, or what next problem may arise; as the play’s the thing. I can tell you that the concept of the three couples trying to spend the night in a 2 bedroom flat with hardly any furniture, may make the Motel-8 look like the Ritz.

The building super, Max (Haley Masenthin) comes on as one who knows her way around most things and how to avoid things she prefers not to get sucked into. She’s not only funny, but she helps to resolve some difficult problem that the others couldn’t do.

Jerry Jobe directed this cute opus which has a very limited run. May 10 to 12, and May 16 to 18 only. Free parking, goodies to nosh on, and all seats have good views. More info at CenterStageNorth.com


Ride The Cyclone

Ride The Cyclone
Alliance Theatre
through May 26, 2019

OK, so this is not your grandmother’s musical. This work by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell hit the stage about 4 years ago in Chicago and The Big Apple, and won many accolades.

It’s not as funny as Cats, nor as dark as Phantom, but it does have a pretty good following. Leora Morris directed this one at the new Coca-Cola Theatre. The story line is that five teenagers were riding a roller coaster in Canada when it went off the rails and they died; only to find that they were in a weird sort of purgatory managed by The Amazing Karnak (Karl Hamilton) who is a fortune teller doomed to his own demise in a short time, and he knows how and when.

The students, all from the small town of Uranium, Saskatchewan are given a chance to see which one of them may be able to return to life, as they sing out stories of their lives, desires, and problems. The three girls are played by Lillian Castillo, Chaz Duffy and Tiffany Tatreau. The guys are played by Kholby Wardell and Scott Redmond.

When these five students wind up in nowhere land, they meet a headless lass named Jane Doe (Emily Rohm) who really has limited ability to recall anything. But, they all take a liking to her. The mechanical fortune teller in the carnival booth is like the usual carnie robot.

It may not be your usual musical experience, for you’ll not leave the theatre humming the tunes, nor recalling who told which story and the details thereof. But, . . . it is exceptionally well presented with live music, very strong and talented players, a set unlike pretty much any other one you’ve seen, and wonderful projected imagery. The technical details are really cool.

It is a new type of experience and very compelling. More info at AllianceTheatre.org


Native Gardens

Native Gardens
Aurora Theatre
through June 2, 2019

This is another play by a prolific writer, Karen Zacarías, and one you will absolutely enjoy. Directed by Daniel Jáquez, a cast of 4 perfectly cast players take the stage which any theatre fan would immediately know was designed by the sisters Curley-Clay.

We all have neighbors, and we should all want to get along with them, for we’re all human. Except for some politicians. . . . Virginia (Carolyn Cook) and Frank (Bart Hansard) have some new neighbors who’ve recently moved in. While Virginia and Frank are really into fancy flowered gardens, and have dedicated loads of time and money to theirs; it may seem that the new neighbors, Pablo Del Valle (Christian Gonzalez and his wife Tania (Fedra Ramíez-Olivares) are more into natural growth, be it a huge tree or some growths which could look like my yard which would win the worst in the neighborhood if we had such a contest.

And contests are in the wind. Frank is concerned as the local garden contest is this weekend and he wants to finish first. Pablo is concerned as he is a new member of a local law firm and wants to host a big outdoor bash on the same date. These things don’t seem to collude. And, things get more difficult when Pablo finds out that a bed of pretty flowers planted by Frank may actually be on Pablo’s land, according to the plat filed with his deed.

OK. Don’t sweat it. There are some loud exchanges when each gets in the face of the other, but all comes out right in the end, and they all get on with life. So there is a lesson to be learned; that we’re not all the same, but we’re not all quite that different. Good neighbors are good friends, and always have been.

A really nice one act show that’s a pleasure to sit through and enjoy. More info at AuroraTheatre.com


Billy Elliot






Billy Elliot
City Springs Theatre
through May 12, 2019

Billy Elliot is a tale of a young lad growing up in a coal mining town in the UK back in 1980’s. Those were days when the government was nationalizing the coal industry, trying to do away with the National Union of Miners and things weren’t easy. Most of the hard working folks were just about penniless and they may have had to go on the dole, but they preferred to work for wages.

The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, was PM, and the Tories weren’t inclined to go to the table with those country bumpkins. The bloody strike lasted a whole year.

Set against this backdrop we have a family where their son, Billy gets into dance and is so good at it that he might just win admission to the Royal School of Ballet. His macho dad isn’t buying it; and probably thinks all danseurs are fags. And the story goes on as Billy hones his skills, family ties get stressed to the limits and it seems there may be no end in sight for anybody.

Liam Redford is incredible as Billy. He handles the ballet steps, jumps, swings, flies, and even tap dances like pro as well. The audience was soooooo taken by his work that I think everyone in the audience wanted to take this young man home with them.

Drew McVety is his Dad, and Bethany Irby is his Mum. Pamela Gold is the ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, the one who fuels the fire that burns so well. In Act II, young Billy teams up with an older version of himself, played by Luke Badura, and they deliver an awesome version of the dance from Swan Lake. It’s a huge cast and totally Broadway quality.

The music is by Elton John, who might have been emotionally attached the story as he is a Brit, albeit he hangs out here most days. Judy Cole conducted the live orchestra in the pit, and this top-notch show was brought together and directed by Brandt Blocker.

If you are thinking of bringing the kiddies or Ms.Prim, please be advised that working class folks might tend to use an expletive as a universal modifier. The show runs at the new Byers Theatre in Sandy Springs, and it is a really posh venue. More info at CitySpringsTheatre.com


Love & Money






Love & Money
Art Station Theatre
through May 19, 2019

Albert Ramsdell Gurney, Jr., who usually penned his works as A. R. Gurney, created quite a few plays which often dealt with social classes and clashes, and some were set in his home town of Buffalo, NY.

In this one, we meet up with a very wealthy widow in Manhattan. She is Cornelia Cunningham (Janet Metzger) who is busy winding down her life and winding up her affairs of estate, by writing some huge checks to do good in the world. For she knows all too well how the very few of us control the very most of the money. And, considering the state of our current oligarchy, a lot of the dialogue is quite poignant.

She lives in a posh brownstone, and Theresa O’Shea is Agnes, her housekeeper and general do-everything. Things were just a normal day until a young chap named Harvey (Elliott Folds) shows up with a briefcase full of legal documents which he needs to go through with his client. She rejects his presence at first, but then things get a bit weirder when a young man from her home town of Buffalo shows up to introduce himself as her unknown grandson. Brandon Smith comes on as that young Scott Walker. He figures he was named after F. Scott Fitzgerald, who he thinks of as his mentor and maybe alter ego. There is a very obvious class distinction between Cornelia and Scott, but they start to mend fences.

Jessica (Caty Bergmark) is a student at Juilliard, to whom Cornelia has promised a player piano for the school. There is a lot of talk about money, social standings and life in general. Cornelia is at the point in life when she realizes that she used to think that she owned things, until she got to a point where she felt that things owned her; and it was time to slim down.

Directed by Paul Conroy and a superb set by Michael Hidalgo, the show is one that really scores it big-time with the AARP crowd. They understand money, aging, and WASPs in our world.

Comfy seats, free parking and nice goodies. More info at ArtStation.org


The Hero’s Wife

The Hero’s Wife
Synchronicity Theatre
through May 5, 2019

This is a World Premiere of Aline Lathrop’s newest play, presented here and at 16th Street Theatre in Chicago.

The play is a one act journey into the living hell of dealing with PTSD. Rachel May directed the two actors in this excruciating trip into the wars that never end. Joe Sykes plays Cameron, a former Navy Seal who is never going to be what he was prior to his deployments.

He is now “retired” albeit you may suspect he had been in some covert ops. And, his behavior makes you diagnose him as with PTSD from the first few minutes. And, while some people may recover from much of the symptoms, there really is no cure for it.

When he is awake, he is in love with his wife, Karyssa, played to the hilt by Rebecca Robles. But, when he is somnolent or fully asleep, he is someplace else and on his guard. He is always overly concerned about being a victim, although it is usually Karyssa, when he strikes at her when awaked, or goes wild in other circumstances.

The fight scenes when they are abed and he goes after her, may make you want to run onstage and hit him with a bat; were you not a patron watching a very difficult scenario play out in front of you.

If you know people with severe post traumatic stress disorder, this may be very difficult for you to sit through. It certainly is not for Ms. Prim or the kiddies. It deals with a terrible problem that too many of us have been dealing with at some point in our lives; and when you’ve been through such terrible situations there is no way you can ever permanently erase the images from your mind.

The actors give it their all, and the show plays through May 5th at their venue in the Invesco Building on Peachtree Street midtown. More info at SynchroTheatre.com


La Traviata






La Traviata
Atlanta Opera
through May 5, 2019

This is one of the world’s most favorite operas. Guiseppi Verdi (or Joe Green in English) was so prolific and he was a crowd pleaser. But, when this one premiered he thought is was going to bomb; but history proved him wrong.

La traviata is a story about a courtesan (Violette, sung by Zuzana Marková) who has left her former calling and fallen in love with a really nice guy from a pretty posh family. Along the way she also just happens to come down with a deadly case of consumption, which killed millions of people in Europe in her day. She looks forward to marrying her Mr. Right (Alfredo, sung by Mario Chang), but when Alfredo’s pompous daddy (Germont, sung by Fabian Veloz) comes on the scene he pressures Violette to give Alfredo up because his daughter is engaged to some up-tight nerd who will not marry her if somebody like Violette is to become his sister-in-law.

It gets a little more involved as Violette succumbs to Germont’s pressures, and later she shows up at a ball back in Paris where Alfredo just happens in. The way she ended the relationship with Alfredo was to brush him off ; and when he sees her in Paris he is really ticked. He owed her some money that she raised for him, and he throws it at her in front of a load of folks in fancy dress and this is considered very insulting to a lady of any position in those days. Violette is mortified. Germont is angered to the max and Alfredo leaves in a huff.

Later, it is learned that Violette is deadly ill and her hours or days are numbered. Germont tells Alfredo what she did for him, and Alfredo rushes to her side. Her doctor, who must have been with the first Parisian HMO does little to help her and as Alfredo finds her, she is at death’s door. Indeed as they embrace the music starts into descending minor chords and you know that ain’t good. She dies in the arms of her one and only true love.

Verdi knew how to grab the audience from the opening notes, and La Traviata is a splendid example of this talent. The principal arias are so easy to recall that if you know Italian you want to sing along to tunes such as Sempre libera. Even if you are not an opera buff, this is a great one as a starter kit. Kind of like Carmen, in that you HAVE TO enjoy it. Great sets, terrific costumes, good choral segments, incredibly smooth score and some terrific voices backed up by a very good cast.

The opera was brought to us with some collaboration with other companies, and with great sets, costumes and choreography and a full orchestra in the pit. It grabs your eyes and ears from note one, and never lets go. The dances of the gypsies and matadors in Act II, are just terrific. And, if some of the tunes sound like their were also in Pirates of Penzance, that’s because Gilbert & Sullivan loved Verdi’s work and they always loved doing parodies of light operas.

Just two final performances at Cobb Energy Center, on May 3 at 8pm and May 5th at 3pm. It is the finale of this season and not to be missed. More info at AtlantaOpera.org


You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown
Marietta Theatre Company
through April 27, 2019

You recall Charlie Brown and Peanuts and the other kids in the most famous comic strip. This play is basically a series of non-related vignettes in which some of the characters primary interests or habits are dealt with. There are musical numbers in each scene, and the six players really pour themselves into going back to youthful times.

Hannah Garmon is Lucy, and she really puts a lot of energy into her intended relationships. Linus is played by Jameson Vaughan and he really works the blanket schtick to the hilt. But it ain’t easy being two years old on stage. The doofus, Charlie, is played by Robby Myles and he does come out quite well in the end. Schroeder (Joe Redd) is at the keys playing Beethoven’s 9th, to the delight of the audience. And the other gal, Sally, is played by Bekah Medford.

Oh, and did I forget that there was an animal in the cast? Snoopy is played with great energy by Claudio Pestana. He may enjoy chasing sticks or frisbies, but it’s all on his terms, since he is the dog. Woof.

Michael Vine directed this show on a stage consisting mainly of large ABC blocks, which easily change into various uses. This new company plays in the Lyric Studio on the Square just off Marietta Square, and easy to get to. Park at one of the meters if you can. More info found at Marietta Theatre.com