Theater

Times Square Angel (review)

Times Square Angel (review)

THE PLAY: This is a semi-camp take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, transported to the drag-infused world of Charles Busch.

 

THE PRODUCTION: The central role of Irish O’Flanagan is played by Wette Midler (better known to theatre folk as Luke Newsome). The character’s overbearing personality should be the show’s strength, but Newsome fails to inhabit a captivating theatrical style that would have elevated his performance (and dominated the show). Some of the fault may lie with director Melissa Rayford, who could have imbued the production with a more arch, stylized approach. The highly-capable supporting cast provides most of the show’s comic character highlights (Desiree Dabney proving most hilarious). Curiously, the dialogue is peppered with accents that seem to come and go randomly. The basic but nice-looking set by Mercedes Schaum serves the production well. Alex Valentin’s costumes are attractively designed, but some of the detailing is a bit shoddy (and 2 bra straps showing in O’Flanagan’s opening number dress is unforgivable). The lighting design by Austin Harber is fine, while the projections from Lucian Restivo add another scenic element. After the curtain call, the cast puts on a mini-Christmas show.  Running time: 2:10

 

THE POINT: There’s a clear line between camp and “straight” comedy. This production proves too lackluster to work either way.

 

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

 

At Richmond Triangle Players thru 12/21

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

(Photos by John MacLella

Lombardi (review)

Lombardi (review)

THE PLAY: A reporter is sent to write a story about legendary coach Vince Lombardi during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Is this show for someone who doesn’t appreciate football? As one of those people, I’d say, “Not especially.” And some of that is the script. The flat first act feels like a Wikipedia entry. Fortunately, Act Two focuses on conflicts, which makes the drama more cohesive. Ken Moretti captures the coach’s aggressive personality, but sometimes seemed tentative. CJ Bergin’s reporter/narrator echoes the audience’s POV with pleasant appeal. As the wife, Linda S. Beringer brings a slightly saucy personality to her character (and provides the show’s strongest performance). The 3 players manage to capture team energy in Act Two. I’m not sure how co-directors Scott Wichmann and Todd Labelle split their duties, but the combination couldn’t overcome the script’s weakness or bring cohesion to the first act’s short, disjointed scenes. Frank Foster has created a bland, utilitarian set featuring cubbies cluttered with memorabilia. The lights and costumes are adequate. Running time: 1:45

 

THE POINT: Fans of the Packers will enjoy this tribute to their most famed coach, but as a theatrical experience, this production failed to score.

 

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

At Firehouse Theatre thru 11/23

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Axle J Burtness, Ken Moretti, CJ Bergin, Linda S Beringer (Photos by Bill Sigafoos)

Artsies 2019 recap (5 videos)

Artsies 2019 recap (5 videos)

The Richmond Theatre Critics Circle presented the 12th annual Artsies last nite at Virginia Rep’s November Theatre (click here for a list of the awards).

 

This year’s theme was “All the World’s a Stage,” which focused on the concept of artists coming and going into our theatre community. Some have started in Central Virginia and moved away to larger cities. Others, like the show’s hosts Bianca Bryan and Jerold Solomon, had success in New York before moving to Richmond to continue their careers. Speaking of hosts, Bianca and Jerold sang beautifully and had a great time with the comic bits. (Click here to read the lyrics to both songs)

 

Highlights of the evening:

– The opportunity for us to hear Virginia Rep’s Artistic Director Nathaniel Shaw sing (quite beautifully in a duet from “Once” with Katrina Carol Lewis)

– The RVA Theatre Alliance revealed their new brand and Facebook page (click here to visit)

– TWO plays were awarded Best Play & TWO designers were awarded Best Costume Design (Musical).

– Senator Tim Kaine and his wife Ann Holton were in attendance  to support their daughter, Annella, who was in the Artsie-winning ensemble for “The Laramie Project”

– After receiving his Best Director award for “The Laramie Project,” Lucian Restivo proposed to his longtime boyfriend (Luke Newsome) right on stage

 

Here’s my recap video (5:02)

Watch Video

 

Four videos were shown during the event (all produced by TVJerry). Click on the + to enjoy them without the noisy audience.

 

All the World’s a Stage (Part 1)

Watch Video

 
 

All the World’s a Stage (Part 2)

Watch Video

 
 

Richmond Theatre LEGACY Awards

Watch Video

 
 

In Memoriam

Watch Video

Artises song lyrics

Artises song lyrics

ACT ONE OPENER

 

“It’s The Artsies That We Love/I Wonder Why”

(Lovingly parodied from Irving Berlin’s “Call Me Madam.”  Parody Lyrics by Jason Marks)

 

I did Sweeney down at TheatreLab

Sang with Alexander, he was fab

But these damn awards are up for grab

I wonder why … I wonder why

 

Once was great, those actors sure could play

Saw Grey Gardens, that was starring Grey

Susan Sanford brings a tear to my eye

She always makes me cry

I wonder why

 

Sister Act was so fantastic

And The Wiz, enthusiastic

Don’t forget that Bright Star show, so nice

 

Guttenberg was super cheesy

And Atlantis, not so easy

And I saw Lizzie once or twice

Mr. Popper’s Penguins dazzled

But the boys from Plaid were frazzled

 

Robert Throckmorton donned his famous gloves!

There’s so much in town to see

That you just have to agree

It’s the Artsies that we love!

 

Time to start this evening right!

So sit back and hold on tight!

It’s the Artsies that we love!

 

ACT TWO OPENER

 

“It’s The Artsies That We Love/I Wonder Why”

(Lovingly parodied from Irving Berlin’s “Call Me Madam.”  Parody Lyrics by Jason Marks)

 

BIANCA

I did Sweeney down at TheatreLab

Sang with Alexander, he was fab

But these damn awards are up for grab

I wonder why … I wonder why

 

Once was great, those actors sure could play

Saw Grey Gardens, that was starring Grey

Susan Sanford brings a tear to my eye

She always makes me cry

I wonder why

 

Sister Act was so fantastic

And The Wiz, enthusiastic

Don’t forget that Bright Star show, so nice

     Guttenberg was super cheesy

And Atlantis, not so easy

And I saw Lizzie once or twice

     Mr. Popper’s Penguins dazzled

But the boys from Plaid were frazzled

 

Robert Throckmorton donned his famous gloves!

There’s so much in town to see

That you just have to agree

It’s the Artsies that we love!

 

Time to start this evening right!

So sit back and hold on tight!

It’s the Artsies that we love!

 

 

 

Artsies Announced

Artsies Announced

Here are the recipients IN BOLD of the 12th Annual Richmond Theatre Critcs Circle Award (the nominees are also listed).

Check back Monday afternoon for my video recap.

 

Best Musical: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, TheatreLAB

Grey Gardens, Richmond Triangle Players (RTP)

Once, Virginia Repertory Theatre (Virginia Rep)

Sondheim on Sondheim, RTP

The Wiz, Virginia Rep

 

Best Direction (Musical): Deejay Gray, Sweeney Todd

Kikau Alvaro, The Wiz

Debra Clinton, Grey Gardens

Nathaniel Shaw, Once

Tom Width, Bright Star, Swift Creek Mill Theatre

 

Best Actor (Musical): Alexander Sapp, Sweeney Todd

Paul Major, Gutenberg! The Musical!, Quill Theatre

Ken Allen Neely, Once

Cooper Sved, Girlfriend, RTP

Robert Throckmorton, Miss Gulch Returns, RTP

 

Best Actress (Musical): Susan Sanford, Grey Gardens

Bianca Bryan, Sweeney Todd

Felicia Curry, Sister Act, Virginia Rep

Katherine Fried, Once

Desiree Roots, The Wiz

 

Best Supporting Actor (Musical): Brandon LaReau, The Wiz

Trevor Lindley Craft, Once

Dylan Jackson, The Wiz

Matt Polson, Sweeney Todd

Matt Shofner, Sweeney Todd

 

Best Supporting Actress (Musical): Audra Honaker, Sweeney Todd

Kelsey Cordrey, Sister Act

Grey Garrett, Grey Gardens

Jessi Johnson, The Wiz

Gwynne Wood, Sister Act

 

Best Musical Direction: JS Fauquet, Sweeney Todd

Paul Deiss, Bright Star

Starlet Knight, Lizzie the Musical, 5th Wall Theatre (5th Wall)

Anthony Smith, The Wiz

Michael Zygo, Once

 

Best Choreography: Kikau Alvaro, The Wiz

Kikau Alvaro, Atlantis, Virginia Rep

Nicole Morris-Anastasi, Dance Nation, TheatreLAB

Nathaniel Shaw, Once

Megan Tatum, Bright Star

 

Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design (Musical):

Alex Valentin, Lizzie AND Jeanne Nugent, The Wiz

Maura Lynch Cravey, Bright Star

Ruth Hedberg, Sweeney Todd

Ruth Hedberg, Grey Gardens

 

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design (Musical): Michael Jarett, Sweeney Todd

Paul Black, The Wiz

Erin Barclay, Lizzie

Joe Doran, Once

BJ Wilkinson, Atlantis

 

Outstanding Achievement in Set Design (Musical): Jason Sherwood, Atlantis

William James Mahoney, Once

Kimberly V. Powers, The Wiz

Chris Raintree, Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Tom Width, 1940s Radio Christmas Carol

 

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design (Musical): Joey Luck, Sweeney Todd

Derek Dumais, Once

Derek Dumais, Forever Plaid, Virginia Rep

Joey Luck, Sondheim on Sondheim

Joey Luck, Lizzie

 

Best Play:

The Laramie Project, RTP AND Gloria, Cadence Theatre in partnership with Virginia Rep

Dance Nation, TheatreLAB

An Octoroon, TheatreLAB

Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, RTP

 

Best Direction (Play): Lucian Restivo, The Laramie Project

Chelsey Burke, The Taming of the Shrew, Quill

Anna Senechal Johnson, Gloria

Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, An Octoroon

Carol Piersol, Pretty Fire, 5th Wall

 

Best Actor (Play): Jamar Jones, An Octoroon

Jamar Jones, Red Velvet, Quill

Michael Manocchio, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Virginia Rep

Matt Polson, Gloria

David Emerson Toney, Between Riverside and Crazy, Cadence

Scott Wichmann, Talk Radio, 5th Wall

 

Best Actress (Play): Haliya Roberts, Pretty Fire

Bianca Bryan, The Taming of the Shrew

Kimberly Jones Clark, Who’s Holiday, RTP

Eva DeVirgilis, In My Chair, Cadence

Katrinah Carol Lewis, A Doll’s House, TheatreLAB

 

Best Supporting Actor (Play): Jeremy V. Morris, Oedipus: A Gospel Myth (Firehouse)

Jeff Clevenger, Broadway Bound, Virginia Rep

Cole Metz, An Octoroon

Stevie Rice, Red Velvet

Adam Turck, The Tempest, Quill

 

Best Supporting Actress (Play): Amber Marie Martinez, Dance Nation

Rachel Dilliplane, Red Velvet

Anne Michelle Forbes, Gloria

Donna Marie Miller, The Game’s Afoot: Holmes for the Holidays, Virginia Rep

Jill Bari Steinberg, Broadway Bound

 

Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design (Play): Sue Griffin, The Game’s Afoot

Nia Safarr Banks, An Octoroon

Maura Lynch Cravey, Savannah Sipping Society

Cora Delbridge, Red Velvet

Ruth Hedberg, A Doll’s House

 

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design (Play): BJ Wilkinson, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Andrew Bonniwell, Songs from Bedlam, Firehouse

Joe Doran, Count Dracula, Swift Creek Mill

Michael Jarett, The Laramie Project

Michael Jarett, Dance Nation

 

Outstanding Achievement in Set Design (Play): Chris Raintree, Songs from Bedlam

Vinnie Gonzalez, Oedipus: A Gospel Myth

Rich Mason, Gloria

Terrie Powers, Broadway Bound

Lucian Resitvo, The Laramie Project

TJ Spensieri, Talk Radio

 

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design (Play): Roger Price, Talk Radio

Ryan Dygert, Songs from Bedlam

Derek Dumais, The Game’s Afoot

Robbie Kinter, In My Chair

Joey Luck, Dance Nation

 

Ernie McClintock Best Ensemble Acting: The Laramie Project, RTP

Dance Nation, TheatreLAB

Gloria, Cadence

Forever Plaid, Virginia Rep

Once, Virginia Rep

 

Promising Newcomer: Joel Ashur, Gloria

Lucy Caudle, Atlantis

Annella Kaine, The Laramie Project

Trinitee Pearson, An Octoroon and Dance Nation

Gwynne Wood, Sister Act

 

Best Original Work: In My Chair by Eva DeVirgilis (Cadence in partnership with Virginia Rep)

Animal Control by Chandler Hubbard, Firehouse

Wrong Chopped by Dixon Cashwell and Levi Meerovich, Firehouse

 

 

13 (review)

13 (review)

THE PLAY: A 12-year-old Jewish boy from New York adjusts to a new life and school in a small Indiana town.

 

THE PRODUCTION: I’m not sure why adults would want to see this show. It’s not an in-depth examination of teenage anxiety, but a rather surface look at typical issues of fitting in and first love. The Disneyesque approach works with this bright-eyed, wholesome cast and the infectious, sometimes funny Broadway pop tunes. The actors are highly capable and director Anna Senechal Johnson has captured their enthusiastic energy. It’s clear they’re enjoying the opportunity to be in a show that’s so relatable to them. Jasmine Mckinzie has created cute, age-appropriate choreography and music director Anthony Smith has put the capable band in 2 places (on stage for the teen musicians and at the back of the house for the grownups). Most of these are not seasoned voices and Hailey Bean’s spotty sound mix sometimes loses the lyrics. Emily Hake Massie’s turquoise and orange set provides the appropriate backgrounds with lockers and school posters. The lights by Weston Corey and costumes by Sarah Grady work fine. Running time:1:40 (no intermission) NOTE: There are 2 entirely different casts. I saw the “Appleton” cast, which alternates with the “Indiana” cast.)

 

THE POINT: This is basically a well-staged high school production. Adults will find themselves bemused by the sweet sentiments of teenage angst-ish, but younger audiences will appreciate the issues “lite” presented by this bouncy, energetic cast.

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

A co-production of Cadence Theater and Virginia Rep at the Theatre Gym thru 11/17

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

The Indiana cast (Photos by Jay Paul)

The Play that Goes Wrong (review)

The Play that Goes Wrong (review)

THE PLAY: An amateur theatrical troupe stages a murder mystery, but like the title says, everything that could go wrong does…and then some.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This group of haplessly helpless actors is actually played by a delightful cast of talented performers. They know how to milk every moment for maximum comic impact. This endlessly-clever production features a gag a minute, including numerous awkward situations and disastrous physical mishaps. Even before the show starts, the crew is on stage trying to prepare the set. During intermission, several actors sprint thru the lobby in frantic search for a dog. The set starts as a classic English drawing room, but is rigged with so many tricks that mirthful mayhem is the only outcome. The audience stays in hysterics and even enjoys the occasional interaction with those on stage. Running time: 2:15

 

THE POINT: Don’t miss the riotous fun of this endlessly witty production performed by a delightfully skilled cast.

 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

A Broadway in Richmond production at the Altria Theater thru 10/27

 

Photos: Jeremy Daniel

The Rocky Horror Show (review)

The Rocky Horror Show (review)

THE PLAY: This is the stage version of the popular midnite movie classic about an innocent couple who stumble upon a castle inhabited by Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter and his bizarre entourage.

 

THE PRODUCTION: The cast is full of exuberant performances, selling the songs with rambunctious spirit. Jim Morgan as Frank ‘N’ Furter (reprising the role he played in 1998) seizes the spotlight with a resonant voice and dominant (!) delivery. Levi Meerovich brings twisted delight to his role as Riff Raff. Director Michael Hawke has crammed the stage with an almost chaotic amount of activity, while working every comic opportunity. Kate Belleman’s choreography goes from simplistic to weird. The band (under the direction of Kim Fox) could have used more oomph to fill the room with rock. That could be a sound issue, even though Lucian Restivo and Shane Barber’s mix catches every word (of course, there’s a lot of scream singing). Frank Foster’s set is utilitarian with no design, Andrew Bonniwell’s lights sometime miss the mark, while Shelia Russ’ costumes were fine. A minor note:  Since this is NOT the movie, there are etiquette notes in the program and a Fun Bag ($7) with approved props you can use to participate in the show. To maintain the blonde Rocky illusion, Adam Turck needs to touch up those roots.Running time: 1:50

 

THE POINT: Even though it could have used more overall polish, this racy show is chocked full of boundless energy and raucous fun.

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

At Richmond Triangle Players thru 10/26 (completely sold out but you might be able to get a standby)

 

In 1976, when Rocky Horror was becoming a midnite phenom, I was reviewing for CBS-6 and did this report.

Watch Video

 

Jim Morgan as Frank ‘N’ Furter (center) with Katlyn Tate and Levi Meerovich as Magenta and Riff Raff, along with Achille Wangam, Jet Davidson and Havy Nguyen (Photos by John MacLellan)

Tuck Everlasting (review)

Tuck Everlasting (review)

THE PLAY: This is a musical version of the popular children’s book about a young girl who discovers an immortal family.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Starting with the glorious opening song, it’s clear that this production is a winner. The entire cast does a fine job. In the pivotal role of the young girl, Lucy Caudle (a standout in last season’s ATLANTIS at Virginia Rep) delivers on that potential with a winning performance and exceptional voice. As the main Tuck, newcomer Taylor Witt captures his character with charismatic pluck and a warm smile. Dan Cimo handles the villain’s role with comic flair. Director Matt Polson has staged the show with lots of movement and lively interactions, in addition to creating some attractive stage pictures. That’s helped by Tennessee Dixon, who has designed a lovely forest-theme set that spills out onto the floor and into projections that add depth (and an animal surprise). BJ Wilkinson’s lights contribute to the magic and Ruth Hedberg’s costumes are full of period patterns and textures. The music direction under Jason Marks and sound design from Derek Dumais are top notch. NOTE: Some of the plot points are in the songs, which may be harder for younger audiences to follow (it’s recommended for ages 8 and up), but when I was there, they seemed to be thoroughly entertained. Running time: 1:10

 

THE POINT: A winning cast, lively direction and lovely visuals make this children’s show a charmer.

 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

A production of Virginia Rep’s Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn thru 12/1

 

Lisa Kotula, Lucy Caudle and Dan Cimo (Photos by Aaron Sutten)

Holmes and Watson (review)

Holmes and Watson (review)

THE PLAY: After the supposed death of Sherlock Holmes, 3 men appear at an asylum claiming to be him. It’s up to his longtime assistant Dr. Watson to solve the mystery.

 

THE PRODUCTION: First off, don’t try to figure out whodunnit, just enjoy the fun. And there’s plenty to be had. The cast creates a solid ensemble and John Moon’s direction keeps the complications moving along. Without Joe Doran’s moody lighting and Tom Width’s heavy, gloomy (in a good way) set, this mystery wouldn’t be half as mysterious. Combine that with Moon’s skill with striking stage pictures and you have a masterful visual treat. Maura Lynch Cravey’s costumes are historically and artistically appropriate. Running time: 1:10

 

THE POINT: This mystery is enjoyable to watch and even more impressively staged.

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

A Swift Creek Mill Theatre production (closed)

 

Richard Koch, Irene Kuykendall and Joe Pabst

Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods (review)

Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods (review)

THE PLAY: A middle-aged single mom meets a refuge from Sudan and becomes involved in his life.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Lian-Marie Holmes is a welcome new addition to Richmond’s theatre scene. She’s an accomplished actor and the strength of this show. The rest of the cast ranges from acceptable to amateurish. And the script doesn’t help. The abrupt unexplained plot points and stilted dialogue are distractions, but the thinly-veiled political messages get in the way of much dramatic involvement. Keith Fitzgerald’s static and occasionally awkward direction doesn’t improve matters (the scene changes are especially clumsy). The set by TJ Spensieri features minimal design, but the living room (where most of the play occurs) could have been expanded without detracting from the other settings. Kudos to Dialect Coach Donna E. Coghill for the excellent African accents. Running time: 1:50

 

THE POINT: This preachy play needs a stronger directorial hand and more accomplished actors (with the exception of an impressive local debut by Lian-Marie Holmes).

 

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

 

A 5th Wall production at TheatreLAB’s basement thru 11/2

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Lian-Marie Holmes and Daniel Hurt (Photos by Tom Topinka)

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (review)

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (review)

THE PLAY: Since the mother was shunned by her wealthy noble family, her son sets out to earn his rightful place, which includes some untimely deaths.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Fortunately, the pivotal role features the affable charms of Alexander Sapp, who’s enjoyable every moment he’s on stage (which is almost every moment). Even though he has flashes of funny, he’s a bit of a straight man to Scott Wichmann’s delightful parade of personalities (9 family members). A lesser actor might have succumbed to overacting, but Wichmann’s wacky physicality is always hilariously inventive (and those quick changes can be astounding). The other actors are perfectly cast, including every supporting role. While creating a winning production, director/choreographer Kikau Alvaro stages this show in a more traditional style, while letting some of his typical flair shine through. Chris Raintree’s multi-part set serves the production well, while Sue Griffin’s costumes may be some of her most beautiful yet (and that’s saying something). Even though the songs aren’t special, they sound great, thanks to the band under the direction of Sandy Dacus and the sterling sound design by Derek Dumais and Joey Luck. Running time: 2:20

 

THE POINT: While the entire production shines with clever comedy, Alexander Sapp and Scott Wichmann provide a partnership that’s always funny and sometimes hilarious.

 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

At Virginia Rep thru 10/20

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Lauren Leinhaas-Cook, Adrienne Eller, Alexander Sapp, Grey Garrett and Scott Wichmann (Photos by Aaron Sutten)

 

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