Theater

The Santaland Diaries and Season’s Greetings (review)

The Santaland Diaries and Season’s Greetings (review)

THE PLAY: Two one-acts taken from a David Sedaris book about the Christmas holidays.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Act One features Jacqueline Jones as a demure housewife dictating her annual Christmas letter. It starts out sweet, but takes a dark turn. Jones comfortably chats with the audience, making even the character’s offhand racism seem almost harmless. She mines every opportunity for the (mostly genteel) laffs, but the piece seems to be trying too hard. The second act has Robert Throckmorton playing a Sedaris surrogate, who recounts his experiences as an Elf at Macy’s Santaland. Throckmorton’s offhand delivery and perfect timing land every line for maximum comic effect. Although I can’t quite put my finger on it, the humor seems somewhat dated and the play less hilarious that I remembered. Director T. Ross Aiken has nimbly staged the show to make the most of  the space and keep the pace brisk. David Ballas turns an almost 2-D kitchen set into a full-depth Santaland, both provide attractive backgrounds. Running time: 2:00

 

THE POINT: If you enjoy your Holiday entertainment with a sassy twist, this delightful duo will get you in the (mean) spirit.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

At Richmond Triangle Players thru 12/16

 

Jacqueline Jones (Photos by John MacLellan)

 

Hillary and Clinton (review)

Hillary and Clinton (review)

THE PLAY: This extended conversation is set in some sort of alternate universe in 2008, when Hillary Clinton is conducting her primary race for President.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This peculiar show presents the personal discourse behind the political conversation that might have occurred between key figures. With something this cerebral, it’s vital that the actors carry the wealth of the sometimes clever dialogue. Jeff Clevenger and Billy Christopher Maupin are downright brilliant in their development of magnetic personalities and their mastery of the sharp repartee. As Hillary, Patricia Alli can usually handle it, but doesn’t rise to the level of commanding presence that the pivotal character should embody. Waleed Sami’s newcomer status is obvious. Director Deejay Gray has managed the show’s challenges with assured, simple direction, while his set makes beautiful use of the small space with an all-white hotel room to suggest otherworldliness.  The abrupt switches in lighting don’t work. Running time: 1:10

 

THE POINT: An interesting think piece.

 

3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

A HATTheatre production (closed)

 

The Andrews Brothers

The Andrews Brothers

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.

Murder Ballad (review)

Murder Ballad (review)

THE PLAY: A love triangle that ends in death.

 

THE PRODUCTION: The audience is surrounded by this show because the actors move through the nightclub space as they play out the passion. Director Lucien Restivo’s consummate creativity and swirling staging immerses the audience in the conflict. As a result, viewers sitting on the floor experience the close-up visceral impact of powerful emotions and extraordinary voices. The show is entirely sung and the quartet of powerhouse singers elevates the catchy rock score. Rachel Rose Gilmour narrates the show with sassy, sultry style. Chris Hester’s underplayed delivery is a welcome development. Durron Tyre’s emotional and vocal intensity is simply gripping. Katrinah Carol Lewis is at the center of the story and as such, gives one of the most nuanced and powerful performances of her exceptional career. The band under the direction of Kim Fox provides a perfect musical backdrop. Michael Jarrett’s lights dynamically direct focus on the action, while boosting the drama. Joey Luck’s sound mix was flawless for those sitting in line with the speakers, although I was told that it’s less successful for people on the sidelines. Running time: 1:10 (There may be a late starting time due to food service before the show.)

 

THE POINT: The dynamic staging, intense performances and magnificent vocals turn this “Ballad” into a killer theatrical experience.

 

5 Stars (5 / 5)

 

A 5th Wall Theatre production at Club Infuzion thru 11/18

Click here to see my video interview with the director.

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Desire under the Elms (Review)

Desire under the Elms (Review)

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.

Death with Drinks! (Video 2:33)

Death with Drinks! (Video 2:33)

The first production of the season from 5th Wall Theatre is MURDER BALLAD. It’s a musical about a love triangle, but the interesting part is that it’s an immersive experience taking place in an actual bar. I went to a rehearsal to interview director Lucian Restivo and get an early glimpse at the production.

 

The show runs 10/ 26 – 11/18 at Club Infuzion (1401 Roseneath Rd)
Doors open at 6:30 for food & drink service
Show begins at 7:30

 

 

Watch Video

Artsies 2017 recap

Artsies 2017 recap

The Richmond Theatre Critics Circle presented the Artsies on 10/9 at Virginia Rep’s November Theatre (click here for a list of the awards). It was a salute to “10 Years Celebrating Excellence” and featured most of the hosts from the previous decade: Melissa Chase, Debra Clinton, Georgia Rogers Farmer, Michael Hawke, Melissa Johnston Price, Desiree Roots, Jill Bari Steinberg, Heather Sullivan, plus a surprise appearance from Anne Holton who presented the final awards of the night. Holly Timberline and Rich Griset were understudies for Juan Conde, who had to cancel at the last minute.

 

The celebration after-party held at was Quirk Hotel.

 

Here’s my recap video (Click on the + to watch):

Watch Video

 

 

Three videos were shown during the event (all produced by TVJerry). Click below to watch them without the noisy audience.

 

10 YEARS!

 

Watch Video

 

 

Richmond Theatre LEGACY Awards

 

Watch Video

 

In Memoriam

This video was accompanied by a live performance of “Never Grow Old” from cast members of past “Quilters” productions, one of which was directed by John Glenn. (Special thanks to Jacquie O’Connor)

 

Watch Video

 

 

Artsies Announced!

Artsies Announced!

Here are the recipients IN BOLD of the 9th Annual Richmond Theatre Critcs Circle Award (the nominees are also listed). For the first time, the technical awards were divided into Musical and Play categories.

 

Check back Tuesday for my video recap.

 

Best Musical: In the Heights, Virginia Rep

1776, 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): Nathaniel Shaw, In the Heights

Deb Clinton, 1776

Keith Fitzgerald, The Toxic Avenger

Chase Kniffen, Violet

Jon Kretzu, It Shoulda Been You

 

Best Actor (Musical): Alexander Sapp, The Toxic Avenger

JJ Caruncho, In the Heights

Josh Marin, Violet

Matt Polson, Violet

Scott Wichmann, 1776

 

Best Actress (Musical): Debra Wagoner, The Toxic Avenger

Georgia Rogers Farmer, It Shoulda Been You

Christie Jackson, Violet

Arielle Jacobs, In the Heights

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

 

Best Supporting Actor (Musical): Alexander Sapp, 1776

William Anderson, The Toxic Avenger

Josh Marin, In the Heights

James Schoppe, In the Heights

Matt Shofner, Assassins, Quill Theatre

 

Best Supporting Actress (Musical): Susan Sanford, It Shoulda Been You

Bianca Bryan, Assassins

Christie Jackson, Heathers: The Musical

Louise Ricks, It Shoulda Been You

Yvonne Strumecki, In the Heights

 

Best Musical Direction: Ben Miller, In the Heights

Sandy Dacus, 1776

Kim Fox, It Shoulda Been You

Starlet Knight, The Toxic Avenger

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

 

Best Choreography: Karia Garcia, In the Heights

Emily Dandridge, The Toxic Avenger

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): Sue Griffin, 1776

Sarah Grady, In the Heights

Ruth Hedberg, Heathers: The Musical

Sheila Russ, The Toxic Avenger

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

 

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design (Musical): Joe Doran, In the Heights

Joe Doran, A Christmas Story: The Musical

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): Rich Mason, Violet

Brian C. Barker, A Christmas Story: The Musical

Anna Louizos, In the Heights

Joel Sherry, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

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

 

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design (Musical): Joey Luck, The Toxic Avenger

Derek Dumais, In the Heights

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 & Rusty Wilson, John

Anna Johnson, Rabbit Hole

James Ricks, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Nathaniel Shaw, The End of War

 

Best Actor (Play): Dean Knight, Dancing Lessons, Virginia Rep & Jeremy V. Morris, The Top of Bravery

Nicklas Aliff, The End of War

Alex Johnson, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Duke Lafoon, Rabbit Hole

 

Best Actress (Play): Dawn Westbrook, Grand Concourse

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

 

Best Supporting Actor (Play): Tyler Stevens, Rabbit Hole

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

 

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): Sue Griffin, The End of War

Cora Delbridge, UBU 84. Firehouse Theatre

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): B.J. Wilkinson, The End of War

Erin Barclay, Grounded

Skyler Broughman, Dracula, Quill Theatre

Joe Doran, Almost, Maine, Swift Creek Mill Theatre

B.J. Wilkinson, Da

 

Outstanding Achievement in Set Design (Play): Ron Keller, The End of War

Kate Field, Airline Highway

Rich Mason, Rabbit Hole

Rich Mason, John

Reed West, The Heir Apparent

 

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design (Play): Julian Evans, The End of War

Kelsey Cordrey & Keri Wormald, Mother Courage and Her Children

Ryan Jones & Robbie Kinter, John

Lucian Restivo, Dry Land

Jesse Senechal, Rabbit Hole

 

Ernie McClintock Best Ensemble Acting: The Toxic Avenger, 5th Wall Theatre

Grand Concourse, TheatreLAB

Heathers: The Musical, TheatreLAB/Firehouse

It Shoulda Been You, Richmond Triangle Players

The Top of Bravery, Quill Theatre & AART

 

Promising Newcomer: Carmen Wiley, Heathers: The Musical

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

 

Best Original Work: The Top of Bravery, Quill Theatre & AART

The Boatwright, Firehouse Theatre

The End of War, Virginia Rep

UBU 84, Firehouse Theatre

 

Special Tech Award: Tennessee Dixon

For her exceptional projection work in shows like UBU 40, The End of War and The Boartwright.

Lyrics for the host songs

Lyrics for the host songs

HELLO ARTSIE

 

Hello Artsie

Well hello Artsie

It’s so great to celebrate us every year

 

You’re 10 years old Artsie

Now we’re sold Artsie

And we’re overjoyed you filled the void

Since Phoebe’s gone

 

We’ll hear some flowery speeches

And some piercing screeches

From those young theatric types right down your row

so

Glad you’re here Artsie

Now that you’re 10 this year Artsie

We’re gonna cheer for all of us today (right here)

 

Hello Artsie

Well hello Artsie

It’s so great to celebrate us every year

 

You’re 10 years old Artsie

Now we’re sold Artsie

And we’re overjoyed you filled the void

Since Phoebe’s gone

 

We’re all celebrating

no one here’s hating

and those nominees, their knees are shaking strong

so

That day’s here Artsie

We’ll see who wins this year Artsie

Let’s drink a toast to ALL OF US today (right here).

 

I didn’t win for that best Artsie last year

I went thru a very bad phase

But now that I’m up for the best Artsie this year…

I hope those critics took the time

to RE-appraise

 

Hello Artsie

Well hello Artsie

 

Glad to see you Art

Let’s start the show right now

 

You’re looking great Artsie

Lose some weight? (improv as in the show)

I think you did Artsie

Looking glamorous, kicking up a fuss

At our theatre prom

 

We’re here anticipatin

and Tired o’ waitin’

t’see who they chose to win or not this year

so

Glad you’re here Artsie

Glad you come each year Artsie

So Thrilled that it’s you’re 10th birthday today (right here).

 

Well well hello Artsie

Well hello Artsie

It’s so great to celebrate us every year

You’re 10 years old – Artsie!

Now we’re sold – Artsie!

and we’re overjoyed you filled the void since Phoebe’s gone

 

All nominees stand now

All sway with our band now

If you win or not we recognize you all

So

Glad we’re here Artsie

Glad we’re back every year Artsie

 

We celebrate your 10th birthday today!

 

 

EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ARTSIES

 

I had a dream

A dream about ME Artsie

It involved you too Artsie

I’m long overdue

Oh Artsie

 

I was swell

I was great

This year I’m gonna win – it’s my fate

 

Because I was the best

Sweetie

Everything’s coming up Atsie

 

Gotta pick out a dress

Oh geez look at my hair, it’s a mess

Gotta lose 20 pounds

This year everything’s coming up Artsie

 

Now it’s my turn

I can feel that it’s here

Oh how I yearn

We all know that this should be MY year

 

No one’s better than me

It’s like that part was written for me

If I don’t win tonight

Those critics I will fight

Like I said, I’m so long overdue

 

Richmond everything’s coming up Artsie

Please let this be true

 

Worked straight 10 years

I’m top dog it’s so clear

Each time I bow

Huge cheers ’cause I’ve got the know how

 

Now I’m here it’s tonight

And it feels like my Spanx are too tight.

When they call out my name

I’ll be glad that I came

 

Richmond…..

Those other nominees will just think BOO!”

 

everything’s coming up

OH GOD THAT SHOW WAS GREAT

 

everything’s coming up

 

THAT SHOW IT WAS THE WORST

 

everything’s coming up

 

I AM SO GLAD HE WON

 

everything’s coming up

 

I AM SO PISSED HE WON

 

everything’s coming up

 

LORD SHE WINS EVERY YEAR

 

everything’s coming up

 

BEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR

 

everything’s coming up

 

GOD THAT’S AN UGLY DRESS

 

everything’s coming up

 

HE LOOKS GOOD IN A TUX

 

everything’s coming up

 

BEST ARTSIES THAT I’VE SEEN

 

EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ARTSIE RIGHT NOW IN ACT TWO!!!

 

Akeelah and the Bee (review)

Akeelah and the Bee (review)

THE PLAY: Although this is based on the 2006 movie about a young black girl who goes all the way to the national spelling bee, several aspects of the story have been streamlined for this children’s production.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Upon discovering that this show runs 2 hours, my first instinct is that the young audience will be squirming well before the end, but I was wrong. (It’s recommended for 7 and up). The young Saturday morning audience was suprisingly attentive. This is partially due to the short scenes and bright musical interludes, but director Audra Honaker has infused the show with a plucky energy that makes it constantly charming. Karla Brown and Jim Bynum (who plays a drunk, not the best character for a children’s show) both create fun personalities. Some of the young actors are a bit tentative and Abagail Cook-Robinson, as Akeelah, seemed distracted by the audience and sometimes rushed her lines, but all of them provided lots of spirited personality and enjoyable interactions. Newcomer Jordan Pearson, as her troubled young brother, gives an especially impressive performance. Terry Powers has designed a set with 3 front porches that swivel to serve double duty. Running time:  2 hours (with intermission)

 

THE POINT: Even at 2 hours, this energetic ensemble (under the creative direction of Audra Honaker) manages to make every minute “spell” binding.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

At Virginia Rep’s Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn thru 11/5

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

 

Karla Brown (center) and the company. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

Cloud 9

Cloud 9

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.

OR

The Last Five Years (review)

The Last Five Years (review)

THE PLAY: A five-year relationship is examined thru song. The man’s timeline goes from the giddy beginning to the dismal breakup, while her story travels in the opposite direction. They meet in the middle for one wedding duet.

 

THE PRODUCTION: With a two-person show it’s vital that both members carry their weight. Luckily, that’s the case with this duo. Alexander Sapp’s charming personality captivates in both the funny and touching moments. Christie Jackson’s role has less versatility or character depth, but she performs beautifully. Both of them are effortless vocalists, and once they got the sound mix right, they sounded superb. Their one duet is the poignant highlight, which is unfortunate, since the ending should maximize those emotions. Director Chelsea Burke has placed the audience on both sides of the set. She effectively used every aspect of the stage and successfully guided her actors thru their emotional journey. Matt Shofner has designed an attractive wooden-planked runway with a string pattern in the background. Michael Jarett’s lights are expressive and beautiful, but there’s a technical glitch that makes them stutter as they fade up and down (which they do a lot). It’s distracting, especially because the ceiling is so low. John-Stuart Fauquet’s six-piece ensemble sounds like one perfectly-tuned instrument. Running time: 1:30 (no intermission)

 

THE POINT: This duo’s breadth of emotions (not to mention their flawless vocal range) brings this romantic examination to glorious life.

 

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

 

A co-production of TheatreLab and Yes, And Entertainment at The Basement thru 10/14

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Alexander Sapp (Photos by Tom Topinka)

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