4 Seasons Announced

4 Seasons Announced

Virginia Repertory Theatre announced their 2017/18 Season today. This marks the first season that new Artistic Director Nathaniel Shaw has guided the selection.




(Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre, Marjorie Arenstein Stage)


Shakespeare in Love: Adapted from the movie which won 7 Oscars

9/15 – 10/8 (previews 9/13 & 14)


Mary Poppins: Based on the Disney musical (just in time for the movie reboot which opens in December)

11/17 – 12/30 (previews 11/15 & 16)


A Raisin in the Sun: The Lorraine Hansberry classic about a black family moving into a white neighborhood

2/16 – 3/11, 2018 (previews 2/14 & 15)


World Premiere: This title was recently developed at Virginia Rep in partnership with a Tony and Olivier Award winning producer. Given the commercial potential, the title is under wraps a while longer.

4/20 – 5/6 (previews 4/18 & 19)


West Side Story: The classic musical and the 2nd summer show in 2 years that’s grounded in NYC’s Latino community.

6/22 – 7/29 (previews 6/20 & 21)



CADENCE SEASON co-produced by Virginia Rep

(Theatre Gym) Cadence and co-producer Virginia Rep have enjoyed a 5-year relationship. VaRep plans to become a more visible co-producer of the studio series.


A New Tony Award-Winning Musical (TBA in May): In celebration of Richmond Triangle Players’ 25th Anniversary Season

9/9 – 10/8 (Previews 9/7 & 8)


The Christians: The pastor of a megachurch causes controversy with new thinking

2/10 – 3/3 (Previews 2/8 & 9)


Appropriate: The photo album of a recently deceased patriarch results in family controversy

4/28 – 5/19 (Previews 4 26 & 27)




(Hanover Tavern)


Miracle on South Division Street: A family’s legendary shrine is questioned

12/1 – 12/30th


Erma Bombeck:  At Wit’s End: A one-woman show about the famous humorist

3/2 – 4/8


Crimes of the Heart: A revival of the popular play about 3 sisters in Mississippi

7/20 – 8/26




(Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn)


Akeelah and the Bee: Based on the movie about a spelling bee champ

9/29- 11/12


Songs from the Soul: Book by local musician William Dye with music/lyrics by various artists

2/2 – 2/25


Pinkalicious the Musical: Based on the books about a girl who loves the color pink

4/6 – 5/13


Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical; Based on the book about a girl and her stuffed bunny

7/13 – 8/12




The Free-View Lottery provides 50 free tickets on the first Wednesday preview of all Signature shows.

The Community Tickets Grant Program creates a process for nonprofit organizations to apply for up to 50 free tickets for groups who may not otherwise have the ability to attend a show.

For pricing and package information for these and all shows, visit the Virginia Rep website or call 804-282-2620

Twilight Los Angeles, 1992 (review)

Twilight Los Angeles, 1992 (review)

THE PLAY: Playwright Anna Deavere Smith interviewed people in Los Angeles about their reactions to the Rodney King Riots. This one-woman show is taken verbatim from their accounts.


THE PRODUCTION: Katrinah Carol Lewis gets an opportunity for a tour de force performance, deftly changing from one character/accent to another. While most of them were totally involving, even occasionally touching, she is sometimes acting, instead of inhabiting the roles. She (and director Addie Barnhart) aren’t afraid to take the time needed to let every moment have its effect. Barnhart’s blocking has made good use of the space, although the extended video projections in Act One were a distraction from the performance. Erin Barclay’s basic lights add subtle variety. This is more a historical documentary than a play, so anyone who doesn’t know or recall the details behind this event may need help filling in the blanks. Running time: 1:55


THE POINT: Katrinah Carol Lewis skillfully rides a range of characters, chronicling the anger, frustration and sadness surrounding this significant moment in our history.


4 Stars (4 / 5)


At TheatreLAB thru 4/1 (with an additional show on 5/4 to mark the 25th anniversary of the last day of the Rodney King Riots)




Photos by Deejay Gray

It started when Jon played Jerry (video 2:35)

It started when Jon played Jerry (video 2:35)

Edward Albee is considered one of America’s greatest playwrights (and three-time Pulitzer Prize Winner). Although he’s best known for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” he penned more than 30 plays, and Firehouse is presenting 6 of them (plus several other events) for their ALBEE FEST. A variety of actors and directors are taking part, including Jon Kretzu, who’s heading up the effort. I sat down with him to discuss the FEST and his personal connection to the playwright.


The ALBEEFEST runs April 3 – 15 at Firehouse Theatre.

Watch Video

Jeeves Intervenes (review)

Jeeves Intervenes (review)

THE PLAY: The titular butler from the P.G. Wodehouse books presides over the mistaken-identity mayhem that ensues in the London flat.


THE PRODUCTION: This script is not inherently funny, so it’s up to the staging and performances to create the comedy. Director Laurie Follmer has chosen an approach that focuses more on the farce than a less-refined British approach. The show is jammed with energy and often frantic blocking. The two female cast members (Emma Follmer & Terri Moore) fare better with their more restrained approach, while the men go all-out broad. Paula & Chris Kern have used a Wedgewood palate for the attractive drawing room, although it feels a bit under furnished. The trio credited with the costumes fares better with the ladies’ frocks than the men’s sometimes ill-fitting suits. Running time: 1:45


THE POINT: The traditional restraint of a British comedy of manners is supplanted by often broad farce in this lively production.


2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)


At CAT Theatre thru 4/1


Emma Follmer (Photos by Daryll Morgan)

Terri Moore (Photos by Daryll Morgan)

Something’s Afoot (review)

Something’s Afoot (review)

THE PLAY: A musical mystery in the Agatha Christie vein: a group of strangers comes for a weekend at a country manor, only to die one by one.


THE PRODUCTION: The characters embody various traditional types and the actors realize them in styles ranging from amusing (Nancy Kent Collie’s Cockney maid) to over-the-top broad (Joy Williams effusive matron). This mashup doesn’t always work. The script’s clunky comedy sometimes succeeds. At other times, the cast is trying too hard to be funny. Jacqueline Jones commands the proceedings with assurance. Tom Width’s signature zippy pacing and clever set surprises help keep it enjoyable, but the overall style is uneven. The songs feature nondescript melodies with obvious lyrics and the cast does OK, but the over-amplified voices expose every flaw. While not especially attractive, Width’s set works well and Joe Doran adds appropriate lighting accents. The dresses designed by Maura Lynch Cravey’s aren’t especially flattering. Running time: 2:00


THE POINT: While there are amusing moments and some enjoyable performances, this production presents an unevenly stylized approach to comedy.


2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)


At Swift Creek Mill Theatre thru 5/6




The End of War (review)

The End of War (review)

THE PLAY: It’s the final days of WWII in a Berlin devastated by bombings, a young cellist and her mother hide a secret, while two Russian soldiers lead the march into the city.


THE PRODUCTION: Beginning with the first powerful image, this production belongs to the masterful direction of Nathaniel Shaw in his first outing as VaRep’s new artistic director. The star of the show is the magnificent staging:
– Set designer Ron Keller’s massive ruins
– Tennessee Dixon’s colossal projections
– BJ Wilkinson’s dramatic lighting
– Erin Snedecor’s beautiful solo cello
– Julian Evans’ persistently subtle, highly effective sound design
Managing to focus personal drama amid the spectacle is the enthralling story of the women who fight for survival (Paige Larson and Eva DeVirgillis, both excellent). The soldier duo (Nicklas Aliff and Wolf J. Sherrill) deals effectively with their own demons, despite their less engrossing scenario. Playwright David L. Robbins has crafted a compelling script. Even though the extended soldier dialogue slows the dramatic momentum, the show’s final scenes are gripping. Running time: 2:10


THE POINT: The play and performances are potent, but it’s the spectacular staging that elevates this production into a landmark theatrical event. This “End” marks an impressive beginning for Mr. Shaw.


4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)


At Virginia Rep thru 3/26




Scott Wichmann and cast. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

My Name is Rachel Corrie (review)

My Name is Rachel Corrie (review)

THE PLAY: This one-woman show is taken from the diaries and emails the titular character. The first act introduces her idealistic youth, while Act Two takes place in the Gaza Strip, where she worked as an activist.


THE PRODUCTION: Kaelie James brings a bright-eyed energy to her portrayal with a pleasant presence and assured skill. Her performance could have used some quieter moments, especially in the second act, which is dominated by one-note urgency. This could partly be the fault of director Heather Falks, who has staged things with variety, but didn’t manage to corral the first act’s rambling monologue into a cohesive narrative. The uncredited set is basically a mess on the floor with a backdrop of projected photos, some of which are blurry. Even more distracting is the continual glare of the rear projector’s light. Running time: 1:50


THE POINT: Although Kaelie James brings considerable skills to her portrayal, this play’s rambling account hinders the effectiveness of its dramatic political message.


3 Stars (3 / 5)


At TheatreLAB thru 3/11


Dancing Lessons (review)

Dancing Lessons (review)

THE PLAY: A high-functioning autistic professor hires a Broadway dancer with a serious leg injury to teach him to dance.


THE PRODUCTION: From the moment he walks thru the door, Dean Knight presents a character that’s captivatingly charming. His stiff, awkward delivery and dead-on timing provide plenty of laughs (his best work ever). Every comic duo needs a straight man and in this case, it’s a woman:  As his skeptical counterpart, Kylie Clark is the perfect foil. This is a slight script (barely over an hour) that delivers plenty of humor, while barely skimming any depth. Still, director Jan Guarino has established an easy style that allows the warmth of the characters to shine. The handsome NYC apartment is beautifully realized by Terry Powers. (Running time: 1:10 no intermission)


THE POINT: Knight creates a character that provides lots of lovable laughs. Together with Clark, they dance a delightful comic boogie.


4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)


A Virginia Rep production at Hanover Tavern thru 3/26




Kylie Clark and Dean Knight (Photo by Jay Paul)

Choir Boy (review)

Choir Boy (review)

THE PLAY: Pharus is an effeminate, out student at an all-black boys school, but he’s also a gifted singer and headstrong leader of the choral group.


THE PRODUCTION: This isn’t a musical, but the group’s glorious a capella voices (under the direction of Anthony Ford) are the show’s strongest element. Jamar Jones is assured in the leading role and the audience often laughed at his over-the-top dish. I found his portrayal too easy and obvious. The rest of the cast is enthusiastic. Despite the distraction of a baby in the audience on opening nite, they managed to maintain their concentration. Director Margarette Joyner has kept the action flowing, even if the jokes are played at their most broad and the dramatic moments rushed. The script has flaws and sometimes veers from its story, like the extended discourse on spirituals that slows the show’s momentum. Vinnie Gonzalez has smartly crafted a set that suggests a traditional Tudor school with a revolving wall element. Running time: 1:40 (no intermission)


THE POINT: This energetic production features beautiful vocal harmonies and an enthusiastic cast, but the comic style and dramatic potential produce uneven results.


3 Stars (3 / 5)


A production of Richmond Triangle Players in collaboration with The Heritage Ensemble Theatre Company at RTP thru 3/18





The choral ensemble (Photos by John MacLellan)

Violet (review)

Violet (review)

THE PLAY: A young woman with an unsightly facial scar travels thru several states to find a faith healer who she hopes can restore her confidence.


THE PRODUCTION: From the lovely opening duet to the stirring finale, this production is blessed with a cast full of beautiful voices and solid performances. It features intricate harmonies and catchy tunes (some of which go on a bit too long). Thanks to Kim Fox’s tight on-stage band and Stephen Rudlin’s vocal supervision, every song sounds wonderful (the gospel number led by Karla Brown is the show’s musical high point). The performances are upbeat and genuine, although some of the interactions could have used a stronger emotional connection. Director Chase Kniffen created compelling action and, as choreographer, he kept it simple. Rich Mason’s country porch façade makes a fitting frame for the neutral acting area. Gregg Hillmar’s lighting adds visual punch, but sometimes calls attention to its constantly changing colors (those LEDs glaring out from the porch are a distraction). Sarah Grady has provided an attractive variety of costumes. Running time: 1:45 (no intermission)


THE POINT: With a cast that creates appealing characters and embraces the show’s vocal charms, this is a moving musical journey worth taking.


4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)


A Cadence Theatre Company production  in partnership with Virginia Rep at the Theatre Gym thru 3/11




Karla Brown belts it out! (Jason Collins Photography)

Message from a Slave (review)

Message from a Slave (review)

THE PLAY:  The first act tells the story of a woman abducted from her African homeland to be forced into slavery in America. Act Two features her granddaughter lecturing the audience with advice on creating a better society.


THE PRODUCTION: This one-woman show exhibits the considerable talent of Pamela Archer-Shaw. She’s an effective storyteller with an open, comfortable style and affecting emotional range. Her young slave woman is full of life and dignity, while her old lady is sweetly charming. Director Shanea N. Taylor could have improved upon Archer-Shaw’s steady cadence by adding variety to the intensity of her delivery and a few pauses to let the emotions sink in. The set by Vinnie Gonzalez features eye-catching cutouts that represent characters, while his lights add dramatic focus. Earlie Joyner has supplemented the story with an effective montage of sounds, but it sometimes overpowers the monologue. As for playwright Margarette Joyner’s script: the slave’s learning of English and conversion to Christianity is inexplicably bypassed, overlooking potential for even more depth. Running time: 1:05


THE POINT: Pamela Archer-Shaw has an easy presence and significant skill in her dynamic and affecting portrayal .


3 Stars (3 / 5)


A production of the Heritage Ensemble Theatre Company at Pine Camp thru 2/18.



Bill W. and Dr. Bob (review)

Bill W. and Dr. Bob (review)

THE PLAY: A biographical look at the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and how they created the program thru the trial and error of their own experiences.


THE PRODUCTION: From the first scene, this play dives right into the drunken drama, which makes the emotions that much more challenging. The leading quartet is seriously earnest, but they’re often trying too hard (the rudimentary script doesn’t help). Audra Honaker and David Janosik, who play several supporting roles, create the most interesting characters. Their final scenes in Act 2 are the production’s most genuinely moving moments.  Director Scott Wichmann has kept it simple, so that the staging doesn’t interfere with the reach for emotional connection. Unfortunately, more scenes feel strained than genuine. Frank Foster smartly designed a simple neutral set with a bar and shelves of glasses and bottles as the symbolic focal point. Laurel Maughan has found some attractive costumes with interesting period accents. Running time:  2:05


THE POINT: While this production may be therapeutic for those who can relate to the subject, there’s too much message and not enough emotional connection to create consequential theatre.


2 Stars (2 / 5)


At HATTheatre thru 2/25


Watch the SIFTER interview with Chris Hester about the show.


Ken Moretti, Patricia Alli, Audra Honaker, Grey Garrett, Chris Hester

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