Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Show reviews for the week of June 25, 2012

Broward Stage Door Theatre presents Backwards In High Heels by Lynnette Barkley and Christopher McGovern.  Directed by Dan Kelley and featuring: Kelly Skidmore, Nicole Davey, Kate Scott, Ryan Lingle, Jake Delany, and Jonathon Van Dyke. Design Team: Lighting Design – Ardeau Landhuis;  Musical Direction – David Nagy; Costume Design – Jerry Sturdefant.

Christine Dolen reviewed the show for the The Miami Herald:
McGovern’s script, which isn’t always crystal clear, tells the story of the driven woman who was born Virginia Katherine McMath in 1911. Her parents didn’t stay together long, and her mother Lela tried making it in Hollywood as a screenwriter but soon found her life’s calling: micromanaging the life and career of the daughter who rechristened herself “Ginger.”

Director Dan Kelley and choreographer Yoav Levin smoothly convey Rogers’ story, punctuating it with one dazzling dance number after another. Musical director Dave Nagy, bass player Martha Spangler and percussionist Julie Jacobs supply the live music so critical to the give-and-take between singers and musicians. Costume designer Jerry Sturdefant, lighting designer Ardeau Landhuis and Stage Door’s scenic designers largely keep the show’s palette in black, white and grays, appropriate for a star whose movie legacy was captured in black and white.

Nicole Davey sketches miniature portraits of several stars – Merman, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn – and emerges as the show’s solid comedienne. Ryan Lingle is a persuasive suitor-turned-scoundrel as Rogers’ first husband, Jack Culpepper, but his Jimmy Stewart bears no resemblance to the affable star. Jake Delany gets the Astaire role, but he looks, sounds and moves nothing like the legendary dancer-choreographer, and Skidmore handily out-dances him. Jonathan Van Dyke, like the other guys, contributes in a variety of roles.

Empire Stage presents Love Scenes by David Pumo.  Directed by Donna Jean Fogel and features Moe Bertran.  Lighting Design - Nate Sykes.

Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed the show for the Sun-Sentinel
Written by David Pumo, the one-man show doesn’t spark until the third scene. But from that moment on, it’s a laugh-a-minute gallop through all sorts of gay relationships, each one getting its own monologue. To be sure, poignant points are scored, but it’s the zingers that linger.

Don’t think for a moment that the late-coming “wow” factor is due to a meandering attack by actor Moe Bertran, who has performed the show across the country and even aboard Atlantis Events’ gay cruises. It is not. It’s just that those first scenes seem to have very little new or particularly interesting to offer. In the first, an inebriated man crashes his ex-lover’s wedding to a woman. In the next, a Broadway director (staging Grease 2, of all things) slyly confronts the dancer with whom his partner is having an affair.

He hardly misses a beat as he transitions from a street hustler lamenting an S&M-tinged adventure (“the way he tied a knot, he must have been a Boy Scout or something”) to a political activist (“We’re here. We’re queer. We design the clothes you wear”) relaying the story behind his first male kiss … at a Barbra Streisand concert, no less.

Finally! We are lifted out of the cabaret and into the theater. It is a triumphant scene that segues brilliantly to the next: a dry, arch and very funny piece that shows off Pumo’s wicked insight. In it, he plays an older “Park Slope” man dealing with his partner’s desire to have an open relationship.

Slow Burn Theatre presents Xanadu by Douglas Carter Bean.  Directed by Patrick Fitzwater with Musical Direction by Manny Schvartzman.  Featuring:  Lindsey Forgey, Rick Pena, Larry Buzzeo, Mary Gundlach, Renata Eastlick, Connor Walton, Lisa Kerstin Braun, Kristina Johnson, Jerel Brown.  Musical Direction by Manny Schvartzman.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theatre On Stage.
Director Patrick Fitzwater warned the opening night audience that this is “thinkless theater at its finest.” Well, maybe not at its finest, but this dopey 90-minute spoof of the 1980 flick starring Olivia Newton-John and, for his sins, Gene Kelly, regularly elicits smiles, chuckles and some flat-out guffaws.

The star of the show is book writer Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed and As Bees In Honey Drown). He told critics while writing the show that he took the job on the producer’s condition that he keep the songs and on his condition that he could scrap 95 percent of the film.

Fitzwater and Beane’s style of choice is at least two levels above over-the-top. The book is intentionally clichéd and clunky to make fun of the shortcomings of clichéd and clunky books, such as ham-handedly troweling on implausible exposition. The heroine in the film was played by Newton-John whose Greek Muse inexplicably had an Australian accent. Beane acknowledges that by positing that Clio obeys Zeus’ command that she work incognito on Earth, so she “disguises” herself by taking the name Kira, wearing legwarmers and adopting a Crocodile Dundee accent.

The cast is headed by Slow Burn’s regular leading lady, Lindsey Forgey, wearing a wig of flowing blond curls. Forgey is a lovely woman with a strong voice, but she is as visually as far from the waifish Newton-John or Broadway’s Kerry Butler as you can get. Being a comedienne, she revels in that. In five Slow Burn roles, she has perfected an off-center heroine whose slightly loopy, slightly at sea persona skewers the unrealistic dewy-eyed naifs who Hollywood usually casts in these roles. Watching her Muse galumph across the stage without one skate, gamely pretending that she can ignore the impediment, is a solid hoot.

The on-stage house band led by musical director Manny Schvartzman lovingly recreates the era with such Jeff Lynne and John Farrar “classics” as “I’m Alive,” “Magic” and the Newton-John standard “Have You Never Been Mellow,” which has never sounded campier. Still, Schvartzman has let the singers get awful sloppy about hitting some notes and their enunciation.

The overall evening is not as consistently hilarious as Slow Burn thinks it is, but if you surrender to humor much broader than the Intracoastal, you’re likely to find yourself having just as much fun.

Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre presents DeathTrap by Ira Levin.  Directed by Clayton Phillips and featuring:  Clay Cartland, Kevin Reilley and Elizabeth Sackett.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theatre On Stage.
From its opening lines – a playwright intoning “Deathtrap, a thriller in two acts, one set, five characters” referring to a script in his hands not Levin’s play – the playwright mixed humor and suspense so skillfully that he simultaneously teased and honored the genre that reached its apex with Sleuth.

Miami Stage Door’s first season closer is a serviceable if not outstanding edition that understands Levin’s black comedy, appreciates his Swiss watchmaker’s plotting and benefits from a solid performance by Kevin Reilley as a thriller playwright contemplating murder as the means of a comeback.

Deathtrap opens with washed-up Sidney Bruhl bemoaning to his wife Myra that he has received a can’t-miss script Deathtrap from Clifford Anderson, a student seeking his advice. With a mind accustomed to inventing the logistics of dark deeds, Bruhl sees how he can invite Anderson to his writing den for a conference, murder the unknown author and claim the play as his own. Myra is horrified as she watches her husband seduced by the gelling plan. Bruhl indeed invites Anderson for a visit to his lair whose walls are lined with a score of medieval and modern instruments of death. The rollercoaster crests over its first peak and we’re off.

This production could use a little more topspin under the direction of Clayton Phillips, the production manager for the Maltz Jupiter Theatre and an experienced director of musicals judging by his bio. He leads his cast in an adequate rendition, but this iteration doesn’t maximize the suspense or comedy that this play is capable of delivering.


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