Theater

The Woman in Black (review)

The Woman in Black (review)

THE PLAY: A man travels to a distant estate in the English countryside to settle a woman’s affairs, only to be haunted by an ominous specter.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This show has been running in London since 1989 and relies heavily on stagecraft to elevate this wordy work. The essentially two-man cast spends the first 30 minutes rehearsing and discussing before they actually start to spin the story. And unfortunately, it’s more told than experienced, which breaks the momentum. Bill Blair and Matt Hackman handle the narrative with skill, but seldom manage to give the drama real impact. Director Tom Width has effectively staged the dark moments with magical effects, but it’s Joe Doran’s perfect cross and back lighting that creates most of the mood. Paul Deiss’s excellent stereo sound design also helps sell the story. Running time: 2:00

 

THE POINT: The stagecraft excels in this talky tale, but too much third-person narration makes it a challenge to appreciate the darker moments. I was never even mildly scared.

 

3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

At Swift Creek Mill Theatre thru 10/21

 

Matt Hackman, ?, Bill Blair (Photos by Robyn O’Neill)

Shakespeare in Love (review)

Shakespeare in Love (review)

THE PLAY: A young Shakespeare is struggling to write “Romeo and Juliet” until he meets the beautiful woman who inspires him. Based on the film of the same name.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Director Jen Wineman has mounted a grandly-staged, appropriately-stylized production. One where the technical elements and the overall presentation is first rate. The supporting actors range from comically fun (a quietly hilarious Chandler Matkins) to dynamic (pompously villainous Joseph Bromfield and slyly imposing Susan Sanford) to less effective (a tritely-effeminate Randy Risher and sadly unfunny stuttering Levi Meerovich). Then it comes to the leading actors: While Brandon Carter bounds about with energy, he lacks the authority to command the proceedings. To compound matters, the chemistry with Betsy Struxness, as his eager paramour, never takes hold. The first act is vigorous, but it’s not til Act 2 that the action coalesces into a compelling narrative. Sandy Dacus has guided the beautifully-sung musical interludes with lovely simplicity. Ron Keller’s imposing wooden Tudor-style structure revolves to feature various locales, although the constant turning in Act 2 is sometimes a bit clunky. BJ Wilkinson’s lights add depth and texture, while Aaron Mastin has created rich, appropriately luxurious costumes. Running time: 2:27

 

THE POINT: While staged in a majestic manner and acted by a mostly-effective cast, the two leads don’t bring the out the “love” in this production.

 

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

At Virginia Rep‘s November Theatre thru 10/8

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Betsy Struxness, Brandon Carter, Joseph Bromfield, Levi Meerovich

Fun Home (review)

Fun Home (review)

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.
Food, Clothing, and Shelter (review)

Food, Clothing, and Shelter (review)

THE PLAY: After a circus train derails near a small Indiana town, members of the troupe venture into local businesses to seek the titular necessities.

 

THE PRODUCTION: The opening scene sets up situations that could make for interesting interactions with the townsfolk, but it’s actually a framing device for 3 one-acts that are essentially two-handers. Act 1 is a mostly inconsequential interchange with some wry humor. Act 2’s protracted dialogue ultimately addresses racism and features a breakout standout performance by Keisha Wallace. The third act (again slightly too long) delves into more emotional territory and features Donna Marie Miller’s moving portrayal. The majority of the 19-member cast is largely relegated to minor support. Director Joel Bassin’s staging sometimes succeeds and other times seems confused (the addition of real sideshow acts before the show and during intermissions is an interesting conceptual addition). Bo Wilson’s world-premiere script shines with the enjoyable interactions of the 2 final acts. Matthew Allar’s set of rope rigging, crates and piles of junk is suggestive of a Rauschenberg assemblage, but feels more junky than artistic. Andrew Bonniwell’s lights work just fine, except for the unexplained scenes when the house lights come on (probably the director’s idea). Running time: 2:06

 

THE POINT: While the concept of Bo Wilson’s script holds promise and the production is ably acted, only the two final acts offer compelling interactions.

 

3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

At Firehouse Theatre thru 9/17

Foster Solomon & Keisha Wallace (Photos by Bill Sigafoos)

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (review)

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (review)

THE PLAY: One of the deductive detective’s classic tales about mysterious deaths on the Scottish Moors is told with a humorous approach.

 

THE PRODUCTION: A farce requires commitment from the cast and this group certainly goes all in. Most of them play multiple characters that are almost always over the top and not in a good way. This is a talented group (with Erica Hughes showing the most comic spark), but director Jessica Dotson has guided them with wacky touches that just don’t work. The broad approach lacks precision and timing. This makes the comedy often awkward and the suspense nonexistent. Last season, CAT upped their game in the design department, but this season’s first design by J. Lin Heath is a setback (pun intended). The flats that represent the locales are…flat. The shadow screen that’s used for narrative touches is often clunky. Running time: 2:10

 

THE POINT: Although the cast approaches their screwball characters with verve, the direction didn’t bring it together to make it funny.

 

2 Stars (2 / 5)

 

At CAT Theatre thru 9/16

 

Josh Gutierrez, Tim Schwartz, Ty Simpson (Photos by Daryll Morgan)

ARTSIES NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED

ARTSIES NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED

The Richmond Theatre Critics Circle has announced the nominees for this year’s Artsies, the community’s recognition of excellence in Richmond-area theatre. This year’s event takes place:

 

Monday, October 9

7pm

Virginia Rep’s November Theatre.

Tickets go on sale September 1 by calling the Virginia Rep box office: 804.282.2620

 

For the first time this year, the technical awards are being divided into Musical and Play categories.

 

Best Musical

1776, Virginia Rep

In the Heights, Virginia Rep

It Shoulda Been You, Richmond Triangle Players

The Toxic Avenger, 5th Wall Theatre

Violet, Cadence Theatre in partnership with Virginia Rep

 

Best Direction (Musical)

Deb Clinton, 1776

Keith Fitzgerald, The Toxic Avenger

Chase Kniffen, Violet

Jon Kretzu, It Shoulda Been You

Nathaniel Shaw, In the Heights

 

Best Actor (Musical)

JJ Caruncho, In the Heights

Josh Marin, Violet

Matt Polson, Violet

Alexander Sapp, The Toxic Avenger

Scott Wichmann, 1776

 

Best Actress (Musical)

Georgia Rogers Farmer, It Shoulda Been You

Christie Jackson, Violet

Arielle Jacobs, In the Heights

Debra Wagoner, The Toxic Avenger

Carmen Wiley, Heathers: The Musical, Firehouse Theatre with TheaterLAB

 

Best Supporting Actor (Musical)

William Anderson, The Toxic Avenger

Josh Marin, In the Heights

Alexander Sapp, 1776

James Schoppe, In the Heights

Matt Shofner, Assassins, Quill Theatre

 

Best Supporting Actress (Musical)

Bianca Bryan, Assassins

Christie Jackson, Heathers: The Musical

Louise Ricks, It Shoulda Been You

Susan Sanford, It Shoulda Been You

Yvonne Strumecki, In the Heights

 

Best Musical Direction

Sandy Dacus, 1776

Kim Fox, It Shoulda Been You

Starlet Knight, The Toxic Avenger

Ben Miller, A Christmas Story: The Musical, Virginia Rep

Ben Miller, In the Heights

 

Best Choreography

Emily Dandridge, The Toxic Avenger

Karia Garcia, In the Heights

Nicole Oberleitner, A Christmas Story: The Musical

Aza Raine, Heathers: The Musical

Dr. E. Gaynell Sherrod, The Top of Bravery, Quill Theatre

 

Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design (Musical)

Sarah Grady, In the Heights

Ruth Hedberg, Heathers: The Musical

Sue Griffin, 1776

Sheila Russ, The Toxic Avenger

Terry Snyder, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Virginia Rep

 

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design (Musical)

Joe Doran, A Christmas Story: The Musical

Joe Doran, In the Heights

Joe Doran, Musical of Musicals: The Musical, Swift Creek Mill Theatre

Michael Jarett, Heathers: The Musical

Gregg Hillmar, Violet

 

Outstanding Achievement in Set Design (Musical)

Brian C. Barker, A Christmas Story: The Musical

Anna Louizos, In the Heights

Rich Mason, Violet

Joel Sherry, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Tom Width, Something’s Afoot, Swift Creek Mill Theatre

 

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design (Musical)

Derek Dumais, In the Heights

Joey Luck, The Toxic Avenger

Joey Luck, It Shoulda Been You

 

Best Play

Grand Concourse, TheatreLAB

John, Cadence Theatre in partnership with Virginia Rep

Love’s Labour’s Lost, Quill Theatre

Rabbit Hole, Cadence Theatre in partnership with Virginia Rep

The End of War, Virginia Rep

 

Best Direction (Play)

Chelsea Burke, Grand Concourse

Anna Johnson, Rabbit Hole

James Ricks, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Nathaniel Shaw, The End of War

Rusty Wilson, John 

 

Best Actor (Play)

Nicklas Aliff, The End of War

Alex Johnson, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Dean Knight, Dancing Lessons, Virginia Rep

Duke Lafoon, Rabbit Hole

Jeremy V. Morris, The Top of Bravery

             

Best Actress (Play)

Bianca Bryan, Grounded, TheatreLAB

Jessie Kraemer, Dry Land, TheatreLAB

Katrinah Carol Lewis, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, TheatreLAB

Boomie Pedersen, Mother Courage and Her Children, TheatreLAB

Dawn Westbrook, Grand Concourse

 

Best Supporting Actor (Play)

Trevor Craft, Da, Virginia Rep at Hanover

Joshua Gutierrez, Grand Concourse

Kenneth Putnam, Cash on Delivery, Swift Creek Mill Theatre

Luke Schares, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Tyler Stephens, Rabbit Hole

 

Best Supporting Actress (Play)

Grey Garrett, Rabbit Hole

Audra Honaker, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, HATTheatre

Paige Larson, The End of War

Jean H. Miller, John

Aiden Orr, Rapture, Blister, Burn, 5th Wall Theatre

 

Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design (Play)

Cora Delbridge, UBU 84. Firehouse Theatre

Sue Griffin, The End of War

Elizabeth Weiss Hopper, The Heir Apparent, Quill Theatre

Emily Tappan, Airline Highway, Virginia Rep

Lynn West, Perfect Arrangement, Richmond Triangle Players

 

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design (Play)

Erin Barclay, Grounded

Skyler Broughman, Dracula, Quill Theatre

Joe Doran, Almost, Maine, Swift Creek Mill Theatre

B.J. Wilkinson, The End of War

B.J. Wilkinson, Da

 

 Outstanding Achievement in Set Design (Play)

Kate Field, Airline Highway

Ron Keller, The End of War

Rich Mason, Rabbit Hole

Rich Mason, John

Reed West, The Heir Apparent

 

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design (Play)

Kelsey Cordrey & Keri Wormald, Mother Courage and Her Children

Julian Evans, The End of War

Ryan Jones & Robbie Kinter, John

Lucian Restivo, Dry Land

Jesse Senechal, Rabbit Hole

 

Ernie McClintock Best Ensemble Acting

Grand Concourse, TheatreLAB

Heathers: The Musical, TheatreLAB/Firehouse

It Shoulda Been You, Richmond Triangle Players

The Toxic Avenger, 5th Wall Theatre

The Top of Bravery, Quill Theatre & AART

 

Promising Newcomer

Akiel Baldwin, Choir Boy, Richmond Triangle Players in collaboration with Heritage Ensemble Theatre Company

Ellie Duffey, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Aiden Orr, Rapture, Blister, Burn

Roberto Whitaker, In the Heights

Carmen Wiley, Heathers: The Musical

 

Best Original Work

The Boatwright, Firehouse Theatre

The End of War, Virginia Rep

The Top of Bravery, Quill Theatre & AART

UBU 84, Firehouse Theatre

 

hey were a decade ago. To participate in one of these videos, show up with a short memory starting with: “10 years ago I was…” If you have any photos from that period, personal or theatrical, please bring them.

 

The 10th Anniversary videos will be videotaped at Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Avenue. Wednesday 9/6 (3:30pm – 5:30pm), Saturday 9/9( 10:00am – noon) and Monday 9/11 (7:30pm – 9:00pm).

Star in this year’s Artsies!

Star in this year’s Artsies!

This year marks a decade that the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle has sponsored the Artsies and we want you to join in the celebration! We’re producing videos for the event that will feature members of the local theatre community reminiscing about what they were doing in 2007.

 

If you are an actor, director, technician, support staff or even a regular theatre goer, we’d love to have your input.

 

All that’s required is to show up with a short memory starting with: “10 years ago I was…”  (If you have any photos from that period, personal or theatrical, please bring them.)

 

WHERE: Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Avenue

 

WHEN:

Wednesday 9/6: 3:30pm – 5:30pm

Saturday 9/9: 10:00am – noon

Monday 9/11: 7:30pm – 9:00pm

 

The final product will premiere at this year’s event on October 9 at the November Theatre. Tickets go on sale September 1 by calling the Virginia Rep box office: 804.282.2620.

 

Alice: a new musical (review)

Alice: a new musical (review)

THE PLAY: Ten women play all the roles in this musical mashup of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This richly-talented ensemble features 10 wondrously beautiful voices and a parade of delightfully wacky characters. Rachel Marrs firmly grounds the show in the title role with standout comic moments from Rachel Hindman’s sarcastic mouse, her madcap twin with equally zany Maggie Bavolack and Bavolack’s riotously hilarious baby. Adam Ferguson’s direction is richly imaginative with a wealth of inventive staging and clever workarounds for the magic and effects. He’s also created an eclectic patchwork setting that looks like it came from a thematically-scenic scavenger hunt. Musical Director Starlet Knight ably accompanies the show on piano, while skillfully guiding the cast’s immense vocal talents. Maggie McGrann has designed costumes that range from funky fun to beautiful (although a few didn’t fit well). Whereas the lighting in this space is often flat, Skyler Broughman has managed to add dimension and emotion to his design. Even though it’s promoted as appropriate for ages 5+, both acts (especially the second) seem to run a bit long, which may be a challenge for young theatregoers.  Running time: 1:56

 

THE POINT: Bravo creativity and talent! Adam Ferguson’s inventive staging and this wonderful cast is full of bright charm and abundant ability.

 

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

 

A co-production of Firehouse Theatre & TheatreLAB at The Basement thru 8/26

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Rachel Marrs, Maggie Bavolack & Rachel Hindman (Photos by Deejay Gray)

The View Upstairs (review)

The View Upstairs (review)

THE PLAY: A man buys a decrepit building in New Orleans, where he encounters the crew that inhabited the space as a gay bar in 1973.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This show starts beautifully with an opening number that promises lovely harmonies and catchy melodies. As the play progresses, it’s crammed with overwrought songs and solemn messages. This is the first production of this play outside New York and the pop references are often funny and surprisingly timely. The uniformly strong cast is a mixing bowl of stereotypes and each of them gets a solo moment. Some of the songs are a challenge to sing and not always successful (the sound mix sometimes drowns out the lyrics). Director Lucian Restivo has forged the group into a excellent ensemble and added a layer of density with enjoyable interactions and smart bits. Still, he couldn’t overcome the play’s inherent tendency to simplify situations and preach trite lessons. Kikau Alvaro’s interesting choreography is often just subtle background movement: Not sure if it supports or distracts. David Melton has engulfed the entire theatre in the bar’s ambience with an interestingly-layered set that shows hints of its faded Deco glory. Michael Jarett’s lighting often provides evocative support and Ryan Allen’s costumes create spot-on period looks (the closing number features some eye-popping ensembles). Running time: 1:40 (no intermission)

 

THE POINT: This production provides amusing moments with a cast that does a good job, but the play itself is burdened with too many messages and self-important drama.

 

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

At Richmond Triangle Players thru 9/2

 

Photos by John MacLellan

Red Eye returns

Red Eye returns

CAT Theatre is again playing East Cost host to the Red Eye 10s International Play Festival on 9/30. They will cast, rehearse and perform 6 original 10-minute plays during a 24-hour period.

 

Directors will be selected on a first-come basis and will draw titles from a hat. DEADLINE to apply is 8/16. (They’ll get all 6 scripts a week in advance.)

 

Actors will be cast 7pm on 9/29: 18 and 36 actors will be accepted on a first come basis. They will be assigned roles based on a random drawing. DEADLINE to apply is 9/10.

 

Six crew members are needed to handle all aspects of the productions, in addition to volunteers for box office, ushers, stage manager, operators for lights and sound.

 

They’re also looking for a social media team of 7 people.

 

Producer H. Lynn Smith seeking volunteers for all of positions. Send an email with Red Eye in the subject line and include preferred job.

 

Mamma Mia! (review)

Mamma Mia! (review)

THE PLAY: A young woman invites 3 men (one of whom may be her father) to her wedding on a Greek island where she’s grown up with her independent mother.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This story starts on a simple set of white stucco with blue projections and costumes to reflect the Mediterranean Sea. By the end of Act One, it’s all out Broadway with colorful flashing lights and big dance numbers. This is one of the original jukebox musicals (it premiered in 1999), but the major difference from many of the later ones is that this relies more on dialogue and plot. The good-natured comedy is broad around the edges, but still manages to provide audience-pleasing moments. The cast is uniformly strong: the wonderful voices produce beautiful harmonies and the performances are winning throughout (the sound on the chorus numbers is jumbled but it’s not really about the lyrics anyway). “I Do” is the creatively choreographed, comic highlight, but all of the numbers are well-staged and enjoyable.  The simple design with great swaths of color is attractive and appealing. And in case you didn’t know, there’s a greatest-hits sing-along at the curtain call. Running time: 2:30

 

THE POINT: If you like your musicals light, colorful and broad, this final tour of the popular long-running favorite will provide lots of tuneful fun!

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

A Broadway in Richmond presentation at the Altria Theater thru 7/25

 

Meet Sharon Ott (7 videos)

Meet Sharon Ott (7 videos)

Sharon Ott is the new Chair of TheatreVCU. Read the SIFTER intro here. We had a great chat last week. Click on each question to watch the answer. (There’s also a full-length version at the botton if you’d prefer.)

 

 

  1. Why did you go from a long and illustrious career as an artistic director to academia? (1:32)

Watch Video

 

 

 

  1. How did you get from SCAD to VCU? (:44)

 

Watch Video

 

 

 

  1. Are you planning to teach and direct at VCU? (1:03)

 

Watch Video

 

 

 

  1. What about your husband? (:39)

 

Watch Video

 

 

 

  1. What is it about Richmond that appealed to you? (1:23)

 

Watch Video

 

 

 

 

  1. What are your hopes/plans for developing TheatreVCU? (1:31)

 

Watch Video

 

 

 

 

Sharon’s entire interview. (7:28)

 

Watch Video

 

 

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