Theater

Hamilton coming to RVA!

Hamilton coming to RVA!

It’s just been announced that the National Tour of HAMILTON will be in the 2019-20 season of Broadway in Richmond. Of course, tickets aren’t on sale yet, but subscribers for their upcoming season (read more here) will be guaranteed their seats. Exact dates haven’t yet been announced. Photo is from the Chicago show.

River Ditty (review)

River Ditty (review)

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.

One in Four (review)

One in Four (review)

THE PLAY: Four new roommates try to conceal their true identities as aliens.

 

THE PRODUCTION: The last show this company presented was fun but sloppy (here’s my review.) This production is less ambitious, but much more polished and precise. The quartet of actors is having a great time being weird, wild and silly, but they do it with assured comic timing. The direction by Connor Sully and Mahlon Raoufi relishes the script’s absurdity with lots of off-the-wall flourishes. The tech is unremarkable, but the light cues are exact. Running time: 55 minutes

 

THE POINT: A scrappy, wacky romp into absurd farce by 4 accomplished talents.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

A Nu Puppis production Firehouse Theatre thru 4/28

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Matt Riley, Rachel Hindman (Photos by Bill Sigafoos)

The Normal Heart (review)

The Normal Heart (review)

THE PLAY: Real-life writer/activist Larry Kramer chronicles the seminal stages of HIV/AIDS in 80s NYC and the attempts to understand and combat the disease.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This play is important because of the historical perspective it offers, but it’s also a tirade of frustration (with every monologue going on too long). To make this outrage and tragedy effective, director George Boyd has guided his cast with a brisk pace and sensitive emotional moments. In the pivotal role, Jim Morgan effectively handles Kramer’s confrontational rants. Every actor is successful with special mentions for Dawn A. Westbrook’s assured empathy and Dan Cimo, who adds much needed humor and even tenderness. Frank Foster’s set suggests an institutional space lined with tiles and centered around 3 projection screens (and that annoying projector light). It works for the hospital scenes, but doesn’t lend itself to the other locations. And several of the flats are slanted (and not on purpose). The sound design by Lucian Restivo is unnecessary and distracting. Running time: 2:38

 

THE POINT: This strong production brings life and weight to this didactic play that depicts a crucial time in gay history.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

At Richmond Triangle Players thru 5/12

 

Stevie Rice and Dawn A. Westbrook (Photos by John MacLellan)

He “managed” to make it back (7 videos)

He “managed” to make it back (7 videos)

Some of you longtime theatre folks may recognize Steven Koehler, who lived and worked in our community a few years back. He recently returned to the area as Swift Creek Mill’s Managing Director. We sat down to talk about the changes and challenges in store.

 

CLICK BELOW TO WATCH EACH CLIP

 

 

 

 

 

What have you been up to since you left? (1:07)

Watch Video

 

What changes are in store? (1:31)

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What are some of the theatre’s assets? (:57)

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What is one of the theatre’s challenges? (:32)

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How has Richmond’s theatre scene change since you left? (1:15)

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What’s your wife (Shelly Johnson) up to? (:30)

Watch Video

 

Are you planning to get back into lighting design? (:17)

Watch Video

Moth (review)

Moth (review)

THE PLAY: Two unpopular high schoolers interact around themes including popularity and bullying.

 

THE PRODUCTION: From the smashing opening scene, the show starts to powerful effect, thanks to Josh Chenard’s dazzling staging and Michael Jarett’s fantastically varied lighting. It rockets along with intense vitality until the male character’s extended monologue, when things begin to get heavy and the pacing decelerates. Kelsey Cordrey and John Mincks work well together. They jump in and out of multiple supporting characters and often comment on their own actions in the 3rd person. He’s acting his heart out (which isn’t always a good thing), while she has a more subdued opportunity to carry the play’s heft. Although the scenic design by Chris Raintree is relatively simple, it’s highly effective. Then there’s the script, which I found somewhat overwrought, almost a parody of experimental theatre with heavy-handed but obtuse messages. Running time: 1:22

 

THE POINT: This production is wonderfully inventive, but the script keeps it from being a spectacular experience.

 

3 Stars (3 / 5) That’s and average of 5 stars for the production, but only 1 star for the play.

 

At TheatreLAB thru 4/28

 

Watch my video interview with the director.

 

Kelsey Cordrey & John Mincks (Photography by Tom Topinka Photography )

Lucky Me

Lucky Me

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.

Mounting Moth (video 2:15)

Mounting Moth (video 2:15)

TheatreLAB next show is MOTH, which features 2 actors playing multiple roles (Kelsey Cordrey & John Mincks). Director Josh Chenard talks about the surprises, fun and challenges of mounting it. NOTE: This rehearsal was staged in the basement of HI Richmond Hostel, so the acoustics make it a challenge to hear the dialogue.

 

MOTH plays at TheatreLab from 4/13-28

Watch Video

Pinkalicious, The Musical (review)

Pinkalicious, The Musical (review)

THE PLAY: Based on the popular children’s books about a girl loves the color pink, especially pink cupcakes.

 

THE PRODUCTION: In the title role, Tyandria Jackson is a crackerjack…full of bubbly energy! As her brother, Anthony Cosby garners most of the show’s laughs. The rest of the cast does fine, although it seems like Brent Deekens is in a different show. He’s more stylized than anyone else. The songs are fun and the voices good. Even with an enjoyable cast, this production seems to be trying too hard. The rambunctious staging by Leslie Owens-Harrigton is sometimes a frantic, over-directed and over-choreographed. Still, the young audience seemed rapt. The set by Terrie Powers has plenty of pastels and outlines to mimic book illustrations. Ruth Hedberg’s costumes are appropriately cheerful and BJ Wilkinson’s lights add pops of color. Running time: 55 minutes

 

THE POINT: A bright, cheery adaption for fans of the books.

 

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

At Virginia Rep production at the Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn thru 5/13

Romeo and Juliet (review)

Romeo and Juliet (review)

THE PLAY: Shakespeare’s classic about young lovers torn apart by their family feud.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Dr. Jan Powell (who’s responsible for the concept) and James Ricks (who directed) chose to present a relatively straightforward interpretation with no gimmicky concepts. As a result, Ricks fills the first act with a vivacious cast that bounds about the stage: shouting, flexing and fighting (zealous swordplay by Aaron Orensky). Act Two plays up the tragic elements with lots of tears and anguish. In the titular roles, Nate Ritsema and Liz Earnest are sweet when things are going well, but their tragic turn lacks punch. The rest of the cast is adequate with notable performances from a fiery Matt Shofner (Mercutio), an amusing Melissa Johnston Price  (Nurse) and a solid Bo Wilson (Friar Lawrence). Reed West’s design features swags of fabric and one set piece (primarily for the inevitable balcony) with a hint of Italianate style. It looks like a poorly painted leftover from a high school production. Cora Delbridge’s costumes are a hybrid of modern garments with effusive period flourishes. This intentionally eclectic approach often felt jumbled without any clear point of view. Running time: 2:35 NOTE: Evening shows are at 7:30.

 

THE POINT: While this production is competently mounted, it never ignites the fervor that would have given the play dramatic power.

 

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

A Quill Theatre production at the VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theater thru 4/22

 

Photos by Aaron Sutten

 

An Oak Tree (review)

An Oak Tree (review)

THE PLAY: This unique experience features one actor who guides the production and a 2nd guest actor, who has never read or seen the play. It’s placed in the framework of a hypnotism show, which also brings out an underlying tragedy.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Since Landon Nagel is the only on-stage constant, his performance is foremost. And it’s a superlative tour de force that goes from amusing arrogance to anguished agony in an instant. He also maintains perfect focus on the bigger picture, dropping character to give the other actor instructions. This play is as much about process as it is about story. The encounter behind the tragedy offers glimpses of dramatic power, but it’s fascinating to watch the new actor handle the revelations about his/her character. It’s also fun to discover how the entire process will develop. On the night I saw the show, Aaron Anderson took on the guest challenge with spectacular skill and quiet confidence. Director Mark J. Lerman has skillfully guided Nagel thru this multi-layered feat, while making the mechanics of the process smooth and interesting. The tech is relatively basic, with the exception of Robbie Kinter’s sound design, which adds depth to the drama. Running time: 1:10

 

In addition to Anderson, the guest actors are:

(They are not announced until they show up on stage)

Brandon Carter

Audra Honaker

Boomie Pederson

Tawyya Pettiford-Waites

Alan Sader

Foster Solomon

Tyler Stevens

If you’d like to see other actors in the guest role, paying $20 entitles you to see as many of the remaining productions as you want.

 

THE POINT: Not only is this a fascinating concept that’s beautifully realized, Nagel’s singular performance is a multilevel masterpiece.

 

5 Stars (5 / 5)

 

At Firehouse Theatre thru 4/15.

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (review)

Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (review)

THE PLAY: This is a stage version of the 1987 movie about an innocent girl who goes with her family on summer vacation, where the resort’s dance instructor teaches her to dance (and more).

 

THE PRODUCTION: This isn’t really a musical, but a drama full of recorded radio hits. There is a band with a number of performers singing a line or two, but the only real on-stage vocals come from two soloists with powerful voices. The rest of the cast plays out the movie’s plot with acceptable skill. The first act zips by with lots of musical interludes, but Act Two drags from all the dramatic interactions. This isn’t really a reimagining, because there’s not much imagination. With the exception of the flashy dancing, most of the staging plays out in a straightforward style. The most impressive part of the set is a gorgeous mountain vista. There are some other scenic elements and a “curtain of planks” to echo the cabin motif, but the design isn’t especially attractive. There’s lots of colorful lighting to add pizzazz. Running time: 2:30

 

THE POINT: If the enthusiastically vocal audience reaction is any indication, fans of the film will be thrilled to see it come alive on stage. If you’re seeking a creative theatrical experience, this is less than that.

 

3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

Presented by Broadway in Richmond at the Altria Theater thru 4/1

 

Aaron Patrick Craven and the 2018 cast of Dirty Dancing. (Photos by Jeremy Daniel)

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