7
Aug

Cats

Cats
Fox Theatre
through August 11, 2017

We get so many road-weary re-heated shows visiting the Fox that when we get one which really shines it provides an evening of pure enchantment and entertainment for everyone. You know that Cats is a review of actors dressed up like foraging felines. You know the show stopping song “Memory” and quite a few of the others stick in your mind even though you don’t know any of the words. Perhaps you’ve seen the production on Public Television, or maybe your kids like the video tape and play it often.

This writer has seen Cats many times in various cities, but this version is a little different in that it is much more choreographic than some previous editions. The producers did themselves proud by rounding up so many very good dancers who can also sing and act. Their balletic skills are quite evident from the opening number.

Keri René Fuller as Grizzabella wasn’t quite the same as Betty Buckley in years past, singing “Memory” at the end of Act I. But after the half-time she came back like a house afire when she reprised the number near the end of act two. Tion Gaston, as Mr. Mistoffelees, really makes you want to jump up and sing, “Oh, my, was there ever a cat so clever as Mr. Mistoffelees. . .” when you get treated to his solo ballet segment. He’s easily the best dancer seen in a musical here in a long time. And when Ethan Saviet comes stage front as Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, we’re treated to a wonderful ensemble dance number in which parts of the stage trash magically become the railway train.

There isn’t any story line to concern yourself about. Cats is taken from T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” which few, if any, of us have ever read, or would care to read. This is more like Lion King in that it is theatrical, spectacular, entertaining and allows one to escape from this world of lunatics into the make-believe world of Cats having their annual reunion in a junk yard. But what really is great is the dancing. They sacrificed none of the singing, sets or costumes and makeup but they added wonderful dance to further delight the eye.
There was a live band, and perhaps some canned segments, but all worked perfectly.

If you have children that you want to introduce to musical theatre, this is THE show to bring them to. Their eyes will open wide, their smiles will stretch from ear to ear and they will sit transfixed in wonderment, even if they get a wee bit edgy in a couple of slow numbers.

More info and tickets at FoxTheatre.org

3
Aug

Entertaining Lesbians

Entertaining Lesbians
Out of Box Theatre
through August 17, 2019

Sometimes a great work of art takes quite a while to perfect it. Topher Payne has worked on this one, and tweaked it for 8+ years, and now can yell, TADA! To jump to the bottom line, this one is a laugh riot as only Topher could write. The play is at a small theatre near the Big Chicken on Cobb Parkway, and you just have to go see this one.

There are seven characters who you will meet. Each of them is as full of it as any sitting politician; save Tad Tuttle (Daniel Carter Brown) who just has his steadfast character. But his wife, Rowena a/k/a Ro-Ro (Emily Sams Brown) is deep into recreating their stage family so that their daughter can finally get admitted to some socially acceptable private school which has previously turned her down.

It seems that neighborhoods and society in general may be changing and the school is now integrated and also has a couple of lesbians on the board; played by Kait Rivas and Amanda Cucher. So Rowena decides that their maid, Mrs. Kelley (Parris Sarter) will play the part of their best black friend, when they host the gay couple for a 2pm reception on their patio, a/k/a verandah. Nobody is who or what they really are. Just wait until Rowena’s mother (Carolyn Choe) shows up. It seems she is not dead, nor is she wanted at the elitist gathering. So she is pushed to become the German servant. Ach!

Then we have a tennis pro who may have a second career as a kidnapper. Oliver (Matthew Busch) would like a payoff for returning the daughter to Tad and Rowena; but that isn’t going to work out. Characters change, their baggage moves around, and the end isn’t quite what you might anticipate. But it is one hell of a funny journey.

Topher not only penned this one but designed and directed the production, and you can bet it will play in some other houses in the coming seasons. But right now you have a chance to see and interact with the presence of a fine cast in a small theatre where every seat has a great view. More info and tickets at OutOfBoxTheatre.com   Just know it is MUCH better than the evening news or any debates.

18
Jul

East Texas Hot Links

East Texas Hot Links
True Colors Theatre
through August 11, 2019

This play is both written by and directed by Eugene Lee. It’s a one act show that dives deeply into the lives of a group of Black folks in some hick town in east Texas. It’s a poor town where the one local drinking hole is owned by Charlesetta Simpkins (Maiesha McQueen) who may be brewing up the hooch herself, just like they still do in many rural communities.

Seven local guys each have their own issues. The issues include seeing a White gal, maybe leaving town to move to Houston for a better job, being overworked and underpaid, and how they need to present themselves. The underlying issue is, of course, the white folks who figure they can call all the shots, even if some of the shots take down a Black person. This is set in the 1950’s and although things allegedly have changed for the better; a lot of what you see and hear makes you think of what you may have seen or read in the news recently.

Eugene Russell, IV plays Boochie, a guy who says he can read people and he sees omens which some fear may be true while others dismiss as being crazy. And Travis Turner comes on as XL, the guy you are thinking might turn on his own, or anybody else, if it were to be to his own advantage.

Wigasi Brant, Gerard Catus, Markelle Gay, Anthony Goolsby and Cedric Pendelton round out the cast of booze hounds. There are ties which bind, but thoughts that loosen ties, and then . . . All hell breaks loose. This is not one for the kiddies, and if your Grandma lived through those days it could be tough for her as well. And, you need to pay very close attention as things develop, for there are often two or more characters speaking/yelling at the same time. The sort of talent that is easier for the ladies than for the gents.

More info at TrueColorsTheatre.org

15
Jul

Tenderly

Tenderly
Art Station Theatre
through July 28, 2019

This is a journey into the tumultuous life and times of Rosemary Clooney. She was born in Kentucky into a dysfunctional family, which went through a marital separation which included some children being ripped apart from one another. She started singing when she was very young, but she didn’t come into the limelight until 1946 when at age 18 she was featured on a record with Tony Pastor’s band. And the story goes on from that point.

Her first big hit was Come On-a My House with Mitch Miller. And over the years she was seen and heard on just about every radio and TV show; and she was a very attractive woman to have at stage center doing her numbers. Her personal life, however, was a roller coaster; with two marriages, 5 children, and a terrible drug addiction.

When we meet her in this play she is with a shrink at a hospital that she was a big benefactor to. And the good doctor is played by Luis R. Hernandez, who comes on in loads of different personae and certainly seems to be enjoying each of them. Wendy Melkonian is great as Rosemary, on the time travel trip of her life, including her attraction and appreciation of some folks such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Robert F. Kennedy. It was being present at his assasination that year (1968) that puts her over the wall and gets her in the psych ward.

Once she fought off her innermost devils, she came back to the stage and performed when possible until her passing in 2002 at age 74. Many more years than one might have thought possible.

In this production Wendy moves the story along with many of Rosemary’s classic numbers, which anybody with an AARP card will recall and want to sing along. Patrick Hutchison, Dennie Durrett-Smith and Steve Florczykowski are the band upstage and everybody is in place and on tune with the action at all times. Directed by Karen Beyer, it’s a VERY enjoyable production celebrating the life of a well regarded performer who had won several lifetime achievement awards.

More info at ArtStation.org

13
Jul

Hairspray

Hairspray
City Springs Theatre
through July 21, 2019

It really is a tribute to our theatre community when we get to see real Broadway quality productions in our local venues. Most of us recall that Hairspray was about a chubby young lady from Baltimore who wanted to get onto a TV competition. Most likely we don’t recall the tunes until we hear the first few bars again, and maybe we didn’t think how this show dealt with the days of segregation in Baltimore and elsewhere. I lived in Baltimore in the late 50’s and when they mention certain streets and areas so much pops up in what’s left of my mind. Of course, like Atlanta, Baltimore has been very much rebuilt; and like Atlanta, certain things which we might have thought had been erased from our society, still quietly lie under, yet to be fully eradicated. So this one really resonates with the audience.

Tracy Turnblad (Jennifer Massey) is the chubby young lass who wants to get on the local TV show hosted by Link Larkin (Chase Peacock). Tracy’s parents fear she will become the object of public embarrassment and they want to dissuade her from her dreams. Greg London is a hoot as her mother Edna, and Steve Hudson is the somewhat wimpish father, Wilbur.

The story deals with two problems. One is the egocentric Velma (Deborah Bowman) who figures she must be crowned as Miss Baltimore, and she has the money and the contacts to ensure that. Maybe today she could have run for office. And another problem is racial division. Whites and blacks didn’t mix much in Baltimore in those days and the neighborhoods were pretty much segregated.

Brandt Blocker directed this superb cast of more than 30 players, and the live orchestra is under the baton of Chris Brent Davis. The costumes and all the production values are a real hit. You will feel as it you are right there in the TV studio as the beat goes on. I guess the bottom line is that it just can’t get no better. Unless they had some Baltimore crab cakes

The company performs at the new Byers Theatre in Sandy Springs. Just off 285 at Roswell Road. Great venue, comfy seats, huge garage, and goodies you may need. More info at CitySpringsTheatre.com

13
Jul

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Laughter on the 23rd Floor
Stage Door Players
through August 4, 2019

A classic tale told again in a really classic manner. Neil Simon was one of the writers for Sid Caesar, and he and the gang work at Rockefeller Center. The offices had been on the 11th and 12th floors, so he put them together to create the 23rd floor.

Kate Donadio MacQueen directs a super funny cast of nine players, at the time when NBC was thinking of reducing the 90 minute show to 60 minutes, and cutting back on costs; including various perks such as free coffee and bagels. How could they have thought of being such meanies?

Doyle Reynolds plays a writer who is from Mother Russia, and Daniel Parvis plays a Irish chap who is part of the writing team. Mark Gray and Matt Baum are also part of team with weirdo Ira (David Allen Grindstaff). And yes, there are some women in the story such as Carol (Erin Burnett) who is on the team and a gofer for Lucas played by Rachel Frawley.

The young Lucas (Shaun MacLean), is thought to be the young Neil Simon, and Max Prince, is an egocentric character we think of as Sid Caesar; played to the hilt by Robert Egizio.

The scenes through the windows of Rockefeller Center area were done by Chuck Welcome and were a really nice work of art. Like any Neil Simon work, this is a work of laughter aplenty, sometimes set on pathos, in the blacklisting days of Joe McCarthy. And, I can tell you it is superbly done by this cast who seemed to enjoy the play as much as the audience did.

More info and tickets at StageDoorPlayers.net

6
Jul

The Wrath of Con

The Wrath of Con
Dad’s Garage
through July 27, 2019

They’re reprising this one, and to full houses who are going bats (pun intended) about the show. The cast of six players are really putting their all into this one, and the action never seems to abate.

Meg Ansteensten, Anna Giles, Ronnie Johnson-Lopez, Whittney Millsap, Maged Roushdi and Taylor Roy get in your face as a bunch of nerds who want to be what they think they may be, or want to be; regardless of how they see themselves, or think or know how others perceive them.

It may bring to mind gatherings such as the Wrath of Kahn, and some Star Wars scenes; but this isn’t either of those. It is taking place in a hotel room where the Con is in sessions and you can be glad you aren’t in the room next door. Scott Warren has directed this high energy meeting of the minds, or whatever . . .

The back-lit imagery of the evil one, sets the route to be soon traveled, and they all take off on it. Most of the audience on opening night probably had seen this one before at Dad’s Garage and they couldn’t control their excitement as the tale of nerds unfolds. It may not be quite the show for a lot of the AARP crowd or some Ms. Prims, but if you want an evening of very unusual entertainment then you’ll dig this one.

Easy to get to, free parking and plenty of goodies available. More info at DadsGarage.com

5
Jul

Hair

Hair
Serenbe Playhouse
through August 18, 2019

First thing you need to understand is that this is a period piece. Hair hit the boards in 1968 during the Viet Nam debacle and all the civil unrest of the mid 60’s. The show takes place in lower Manhattan and is a bunch of flower children who are searching for the meanings of their own lives on this planet amidst the apparent insanity of the world around them. But, to that world they come off as the insane ones.

A cast of 19 players and a 6 piece on-stage band play to a small and intimate audience in the meadow; doing 39 roaring numbers, of which the only ones most of us recall are Hair, Aquarius and Good Morning Starshine. It really makes one think of Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury days.
But, here we find ourselves more than fifty years later still in the quagmires of wars where there is no real winning. And therein, I guess, lies the connection to the present day. There is some frontal nudity, which you really don’t see much of, and some single entendre comments, but it is not the essence of the story at all. What it did bring to mind is a quotation from George Santayana who said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

There basically is no set, per se, as it is all about the music. The players are over the top as to working the house. They’re running up and down the aisles in some numbers and speak directly to the audience. It may not appeal to some folks who lived through those years and/or suffered losses to their families; and it may be tough to interpret it for youngsters. It definitely is an unique work and you either like it or not, as these young folks deal with their identity, sexual orientation, racial background, draft status and acceptance into the society of their days.

This is a really good cabaret style production of this rock musical about hippies, directed by Brian Clowdus, with choreography by Bubba Carr and with the band under the baton of Ed Thrower. Two extra special things about the performances through July 21st, are a special appearance of Braden Chapman in drag as Margaret Mead, and the theatre company’s tribute to Bob Farley who we all knew from his days at Georgia Ensemble, but didn’t know that back in 1968 he was brought on board as part of the artistic team for the first touring company of Hair. He is still with those of us who appreciated his work and devotion to good theatre.

More info at SerenbePlayhouse.com

29
Jun

Driving Miss Daisy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving Miss Daisy
Georgia Ensemble Theatre
through July 21, 2019

In addition to GWTW, probably the most memorable tales dealing with life in our area have to be the trilogy of works by Alfred Uhry. He wrote Driving Miss Daisy, as well as Last Night of Ballyhoo and then Parade. Each a significant work in its own right.

Georgia Ensemble brought this work to their stage in Roswell recently and now is producing it at the Conant Performing Arts Center at Oglethorpe University. Laurel Crowe who dearly loves this work for many personal reasons, directs a superb cast of three players, who take us back in time.

Ellen McQueen is Miss Daisy, who ages gracefully through decades on stage. She’s a Jewish older woman who really shouldn’t be driving any more. Her son, Boolie (William S. Murphey) insists he can hire a driver for her; even though at the outset she rejects the idea in every way. But, time works wonders. Rob Cleveland plays Hoke, who is a black man hired to service the lady. The two men have played these roles several times before.

The time is in the 1950’s and things aren’t that good for Blacks in our town, nor elsewhere in the South. The keynote event of the script is the bombing of The Temple on October 12, 1958 and Dr. King’s speech at The Temple in the 1960’s.

Hoke and Daisy find that the glue which binds them to one another is far greater than any grit which could keep them apart and they wind up as the best of friends.

The show moves quite gracefully and you really get to feel as if you know each of these three good people; each of whom is somebody you wish you had for a friend today. And it makes us think how sometimes the more things change the more they may stay the same. Just turn on the news any day. This theatre is easy to get to in Brookhaven on Peachtree Road. Plenty of free parking, a safe neighborhood, good views from all seats and you may recall it as the former home of the Georgia Shakespeare Company. More info at GET.org

27
Jun

Max Makes a Million

 

 

 

 

 

Max Makes a Million
Alliance Theatre
through July 21, 2019

It’s really a delight when a professional theatre company can stage a show that really appeals to kids of all ages. And “all ages” may mean from 4 to 94; for all the adults really enjoyed this one act opus with 5 great actors and a live musical trio on stage.

Liz Diamond adapted this one from the book of the same name by Maira Kalman. And she directs this super cast which brings us to meet Max (Ann Marie Gideon) who is a dog with wishes and plans for the future. Max understands that youngsters need not only their feelings of roots, such as being a canine, but also wings to soar to their heights, which in his case is moving one day to Paris.

For Max has some real talents such as doing paintings which are invisible, and writing poetry. He’s may have had some gallery events but who can critique an invisible sketch? And he knows that to get published you need an agent. That’s somebody who always gets a good percentage, and hardly ever really scores a deal.

But things change when Max’s agent calls to say he did a deal for a cool million dollars, and Max can fill all his dreams and do anything and go anywhere. So why not Paris?
Shelli Delgado, Diany Rodriguez, Tony Manna and Thomas Neal Antwon Ghant take the stage in about 20 different roles; and the costumes, moves and props are all first class. This show even has projected imagery which accents what is going on, and you’ll love that everything is going on. Justin Ellington did some original music and arrangements and Eric Baumgartner, Q Robinson and Jordan Shalhoup seem to be enjoying playing the numbers as much as we enjoyed hearing them.

This is a 40 minute one-act show which is absolutely perfect for introducing the kids to theatre. It is on the Hertz Stage at Woodruff Center and there are two shows both in morning hours; so easy to get to, to park, and then go grab a bite. And if your kids got a kick out of this one, you can also go across the plaza to the High Museum where you can help them enjoy some great works on visit. But Max Ernst is not the dog you now know. More info at AllianceTheatre.org