It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life
Onstage Atlanta
through December 23, 2019

OnStage Director Cathe Hall Payne stepped up the plate to bring this large scale production to their stage. She tells you in the program why she has been so deeply into this 1946 film by Frank Capra, which tells the tale of a sorry loser in a small town and how he moves through his depressing life on this earth to finally find hope and a reason for being.

Daniel Carter Brown is George Bailey. George has had it in Bedford Falls and is ready to move on places unknown. He was going to off himself when his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (DeWayne Morgan) shows up to take him through what his life has been, and could have been, and might become, due to his good deeds; while others played a different game.

This is a show with a cast of more than 20 players, and while it may be full to the brim with stress, shouting, and difficult situations; you need to remember that it is a Yuletide tale, and all will come out right in the end. Angela Short designed a set that works quite well with projected images reminiscent of the film clips, which help to move the story along.

It may not be quite the red-nosed reindeer sort of show for kiddies, but for those who may have seen the film or know the story, it resonates in true time to their real hearts.

The show runs less than 2 hours with an intermission; and the theatre itself is dressed out as if all those elves from Macy’s had come to town just to dress out the venue. Located on North Decatur Road near 285, the theatre is easy to get to, has free parking, nice goodies, and good seats. More info at OnStageAtlanta.com


Cinnamon GRITS

Cinnamon GRITS
Christmas in The South
Art Station Theatre
through December 20, 2019

To start with, GRITS is the acronym for Girls Raised In The South, and this is a sequel to other GRITS productions. In this work we meet up with four ladies at the Yuletide. The tree is decorated, the boxes are wrapped, and many memories come into focus which they share musically with the audience.

Karen Beyer must really have enjoyed directing this one, featuring Aretta Baumgartner, Liza Jaine, Allison Upshaw and Joy Walters. Each of them sing along with one another, swap stories, work the house, and delve deeply into the essence of the holidays and families, and what is, or should be, most important.

Patrick Hutchison, and Woody and Tom Jenkins do the music, in this sweet little show crafted by Erica Allen McGee. She knows of what she writes as she actually once worked at Dollywood.

The show is done pretty much cabaret style and is certainly one that pleases the AARP crowd; for there may be some parody in some numbers, but no political discussion and nobody gets killed. This is one that any of the senior living centers would truly enjoy if they just grabbed up a group of tickets and hit the road to Stone Mountain Village.

More info at ArtStation.org


The Wickhams Christmas at Pemberley







The Wickhams
Christmas at Pemberley
Theatrical Outfit
through December 29, 2019

If you saw last year’s production of Miss Bennet and her dysfunctional Christmas; then you’ll instantly relate to this sequel by the playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. This year we don’t go upstairs to the main sitting room area; but are hanging out downstairs in the servants’ quarters; pretty much managed by Mrs. Reynolds (Deadra Moore). Jasmine Thomas and Justin Walker return onstage as Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, but dealing with a whole new range of problems.

Carolyn Cook has directed this sequel which plays off so well. Lauren Boyd Lane and Shaun MacLean are the servants trying to get things done, without ticking off anybody. But that isn’t easy when an unwelcome visitor, George Wickham (Daniel Parvis) shows up late on Christmas eve. He’s a bit of a rogue and has been wed to Lydia (Erika Miranda) who may be part of the Darcy clan, but living apart from George.

George is a user and a loser, and as the Brits would say, he is NQOT (not quite our type) and is a poster boy for being a pariah. The party is going on upstairs, but we stay downstairs where the real action is boiling up. You might make a guess as to how things will turn out; but then you may also want to guess who gets elected in 2024. Derived from Pride and Prejudice the story isn’t one for the kiddies, but we kids up to age 90 enjoyed it; and if you have read Jane Austen you will really dig it.

Plan your drive with extra time if anything is going on down near Centennial Park, and just park in the garage next door to the theatre, since you can get a $6 parking voucher at the concession stand. The theatre is downtown on Luckie Street, has good views from all seats, and they always stage excellent productions. More info at TheatricalOutfit.org


Christmas with the Crawfords

Christmas with the Crawfords
Out Front Theatre
through December 21, 2019

Joan Crawford was an actress, egomaniac, booze hound, and a real piece of work. She had been a success in the early film days, and had adopted some children who were perhaps not quite convinced it had been an easy voyage. Crawford was a difficult mother-type who insisted they do chores, instantly obey her and always have the last words in every discussion; which would be “yes Mommie Dearest.”

This work may be derived from a book that her older adoptee, Christina Crawford, published about 40 years ago. But, it isn’t necessarily all based on facts. The stage is set at the Crawford mansion which lies next door to Cary Grant’s home, where a Christmas party was being staged. Without Joan and the kids being among the guests.

Joan (Emily Nedvidek) has a visitor, reporter Hedda Hopper (Jaymyria Etienne) who is ready to do a live radio interview. The kids, “Tina” (Michael Vine) and Christopher (Abby Holland) are the props for Mommie Dearest. Some unexpected visitors including Carmen Miranda (Rosa Campos), Judy Garland (Annamaria Dvorak), Gloria Swanson (Blake Fountain) and Ethel Merman (Lynn Grace) show up thinking they are at Grant’s gala. Oooops. Even the Andrews Sisters show up with Trevor Perry as one of the trio.

Nick Silvestri is onstage as a Liberace type piano player who gracefully works the cast through 19 seasonal numbers. Directed by Jennifer Alice Acker, the cast brings down the house. You know who is in drag, but everybody is into the laughter and the songs and silly screw-ups.

This is another really staged production by OutFront Theatre Company. Located on Brady Avenue at 10th Street, it is a traffic nightmare to get to on game days. But you might go early, grab a table at Donetto, a posh Italian bistro across the street and enjoy a fine meal. They have a fine menu and wine list and it can really make the night even better.

More info at OutFrontTheatre.com


Waffle Palace Christmas

Waffle Palace Christmas
Horizon Theatre
through December 29, 2019

Once again, Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee, have crafted a sequel to their Waffle Palace play. You know you are sitting in the diner, which is designed by Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, and almost touching the staff and the patrons who come and go, as the business tries to survive a financially bleak holiday.

Some of the actors from the prequel have returned to reprise their roles. Maria Rodriguez-Sager comes back at the waitress, Esperanza, from Nicaragua, albeit she is now pregnant. Allan Edwards comes is Hugo, her hubby, who has some deep thoughts about impending parenthood. Lala Cochran is in her usually funny roles as a business woman and some other roles. And in this opus, Larry Larson hits the boards as the diner owner, John. His partner is Connie, played by Brenda Porter.

Dai’Sean L. Garrett is Deandre, the nephew of Connie who comes on to work the grill; and that mean old Christmas devil is played to the hilt once again by Rob Cleveland. And Megan Hayes plays a couple of other ladies. The production is directed by Lisa Adler

But, rest easily. This is holiday season. Nobody gets harmed, and all comes out well in the end; except maybe for the devilish Krampus. But all the patrons had a riotously happy evening. The show runs about 2.5 hours, and there is plenty of free parking; but plan early as you have to fight your way down to Little 5 Points. But, it’s worth it, . . . BIGTIME.

More info at HorizonTheatre.com



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