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20 posts from April 2008

April 30, 2008

South Florida talent scores

Four South Florida-connected actors and a playwright are making their marks way beyond the place all have called home.

Merrily_we_roll_along At Monday's Helen Hayes Awards in Washington, D.C., Erik Liberman (that's Erik in the plaid jacket in the photo at right) took home the honor as outstanding supporting actor in a resident musical for his performance as Charley Kringas in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along at Virginia's Signature Theatre.  Liberman, who grew up in Miami, graduated from the New World School of the Arts high school program.  Also scoring a major Helen Hayes award was Marc Kudisch, named outstanding leading actor in a resident musical for his performance in Signature's The Witches of Eastwick.  Kudisch, who stays very busy on Broadway these days, grew up in Plantation and graduated from Florida Atlantic University.

AprilThough she doesn't know yet how things will turn out, Liberty City-raised April Yvette Thompson has reason to rejoice too.  She has been nominated for three major awards -- the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Lucille Lortel Award -- for her solo show Liberty City, a play she co-authored with Jessica Blank (one of the two Exonerated playwrights).  Thompson's play, which premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop, is rooted in her experiences as the daughter of activists -- experiences that included the Miami riots of 1980.

Two other Miami theater talents are making noise elsewhere.

Reggie Carbonell Award-winning actor Reggie Whitehead has landed a "dream job," he says, playing Sportin' Life in a production of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess that will tour Russia, Poland, Estonia and Latvia this summer.

LaurenPlaywright and actress Lauren Feldman (at left, in an earlier show at GableStage) will receive her master's degree from the Yale School of Drama this spring.  Her play Grace, or the Art of Climbing is one of three scripts in Yale's Carlotta Festival of New Plays May 9-18.  Feldman's play is about a depressed young woman who turns to competitive rock-climbing in the aftermath of her father's illness and a painful breakup. For info, visit the Carlotta Festival web site.

April 29, 2008

Like it or it's free

Now, this is how a producer expresses confidence in a new show  A musical titled Makeover begins preview performances Friday, May 2, at the Hollywood Playhouse.  And producer-creator Mark Poncy is so certain that audiences will like what they see and here that he's offering this deal:  If you catch the show in one of its preview performances (they run through May 7) and think it's not so hot, you can ask for your money back.  And get it.

Poncy, who lives in North Palm Beach, has concocted what the show's publicists calls "a classic story of the struggle between good and evil," one "cloaked in a contemporary theme of plastic surgery gone awry."  The 18-song score, touted as being reminiscent of the early work of Stephen Sondheim, contains songs with such titles as All's Well at the Gates of Hell, You Can't Never Trust a Man and Please Make Me Over.  Katie Angell Thomas and Jack James are the show's stars.

The money-back deal is just for previews.  Once the show opens on May 9, you pay your money and take your chances.

The Hollywood Playhouse is at 2640 Washington St. in Hollywood.  Previews are 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday (May 7-9), 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (May 3-4) and May 7.  Tickets are $38.  For information, call the box office at 954-922-0404 or visit the theater's web site.

April 28, 2008

The Arsht Center's entertaining summer

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts has unveiled a summer season, one aimed at reflecting multicultural Miami and appealing to families looking for fun to spice up the school-free months.

An enhanced version of City Theatre's popular Summer Shorts Festival kicks things off May 29-June 22, this year featuring three separate programs of short plays:  Signature Shorts, the company's customary two-part program of brief comedies and dramas; Shorts 4 Kids (June 12-22), a family-oriented program; and Undershorts (June 12-22), an edgy late-night program.

Another kids' show, Go, Diego, Go Live! (based on the popular Nick Jr. show), plays the Arsht June 14-15.

Laugartascelia The Off-Broadway hit Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz hits the Arsht June 18-July 6.  Written by Carmen Rivera and Candido Tirado, the musical revisits the life and long career of the salsa superstar (that's New York star Xiomara Laugart Sanchez as Celia at left).  The production's large company of singers, dancers and musicians will give performances in both English and Spanish in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall.

After Summer Shorts departs,the XXIII International Hispanic Theatre Festival brings its array of companies from around the world to the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater July 9-27.

Two major shows will play the Arsht from late July to mid-August.  The world premiere of Miami Libre, the dance-driven bilingual story of a musician's quest for love and freedom, plays the Knight Concert Hall July 25-Aug. 17. And the wintry Slava's Snowshoe, a piece by original Cirque du Soleil clown Slava, plays the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House July 24-Aug. 17.

For information on the Arsht's summer lineup, visit the center's web site or phone the box office at 305-949-6722.

April 25, 2008

A new musical and a classic play

So the reviews for Cry-Baby, the second Broadway musical based on a John Waters movie, are in.  And they're a real mixed lot: very good, very bad and just about everywhere in between.

Crybaby826r Linda Winer of Newsday liked it a lot, and so did Elysa Gardner of USA Today and Malcolm Johnson of the Hartford Courant.  Among those at the opposite end of the spectrum were Ben Brantley of the New York Times, John Simon of Bloomberg.com and Peter Marks of the Washington Post.

Given that all-over-the-map bunch of notices, Cry-Baby is likely to have a bumpier road to long-running hit status than its Waters musical predecessor, Hairspray.  But if Miami Beach-raised producer Adam Epstein can get the word out about the show's true-to-Waters aesthetic (in the Joan Marcus photo at left, stars James Snyder and Elizabeth Stanley illustrate the musical question Girl Can I Kiss You [With Tongue]?), and if he can find a way to convey the show's exuberant faux-'50s fun, it could last.  For more info, check out the Cry-Baby web site.


New Theatre founder Rafael de Acha kicks off his Theater by the Book venture Sunday at 7 p.m. at Rafael_de_acha GableStage.  First up is a reading of Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning Our Town.  In the cast are David Kwiat, Bill Schwartz, Robert Strain, Kimberly Daniel, Sally Levin, Nicholas Richberg and Cecilia Torres, all veterans of the De Acha era at New Theatre.  Admission to the staged reading is free; GableStage is in the Biltmore Hotel at 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.

De Acha, as organized as ever, also has seven future readings planned at various locations:  Mario Diament's The Book of Ruth June 1, John Strand's adaptation of Alfred de Musset's Lorenzaccio July 8, Pedro Calderon de la Barca's Life's Dreaming Aug. 3, De Acha's own Shakespeare adaptation Falstaff and Hal Sept. 6-7, Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart Oct. 5, Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac Nov. 9 and Paula Vogel's The Long Christmas Ride Home Dec. 12-13.

April 24, 2008

Tears or cheers?

Adam Epstein has a big-deal opening on Broadway tonight: He's the lead producer of Cry-Baby, the second splashy musical based on a John Waters movie.

Adam_epstein First came Hairspray, which hit Broadway and became a smash when Epstein (who was one of many producers on that show) was only 28.  Now the Miami Beach-raised theatrical entrepreneur is 33, and he's been carefully nurturing Cry-Baby its journey toward Broadway and its celebrity-packed opening.

Set in Baltimore in 1954, the musical is about the bad boy (played by Johnny Depp in Waters' movie) who gets the good girl.  It has a score by Daily Show producer David Javerbaum and Fountains of Wayne songwriter Adam Schlesinger.  Mark Brokaw is the director, Tony Award winner Rob Ashford the choreographer.  Hairspray book writers Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan did this one, too.

James Snyder plays the title role, with Elizabeth Stanley as his squeeze.

Cry-Baby is at the Marquis Theatre.  For info, visit the show's web site.  Hopefully, Epstein and company will all break a leg (figuratively, of course) tonight. And tomorrow, we'll see whether the show made the critics laugh or cry.

April 23, 2008

Outdoor drama

Theater al fresco is usually large-scale and pageant-like.  The new Pinecrest Repertory Theatre Company is trying to enrich the genre with its twinned productions of Edward Albee's Zoo Story and David Mamet's Duck Variations.

Zoostory Brian McCormack and Skye Whitcomb (he's the one with the curly hair) are Peter and Jerry in Zoo Story.  Larry Robinson is Emil, and Steve Schlam plays George in Duck Variations.  Both plays, set on a park bench, are happening amid the greenery at Banyan Bowl at Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Rd., Pinecrest. 

The last two chances to catch the double bill are at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 27, and Saturday, May 3.  Tickets are $10 -- and an even cheaper $8 for students, seniors and military folks.  Next up will be another double bill: Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and A.R. Gurney's The Golden Fleece.

For info, phone 305-720-0811 or visit Pinecrest Rep's web site.

April 22, 2008

Arts and music, family-style

Actors' Playhouse holds its 13th annual National Children's Theatre Festival -- dubbed Kids Fest -- this weekend, and the experience is packed with loads of entertainment for a $15 pass.

Ethan_2 Included in the Saturday-Sunday festivities is the production of Robin Seidman and Spencer G. Stephens' winning musical, Paint! Marc Chagall's Colorful Musical Adventure, at 10 a.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; performances of Into the Woods Jr. by the singing Musical Miracles; and, at noon Saturday on the theater's mainstage, a performance by seven-year-old piano prodigy Ethan Bortnick, the very cute kid at the left. 

Kids can also paint their own "masterpiece," make a puppet, design a costume or mask, learn to act for the camera, sing onstage and more.

Passes are good for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, or 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.  For information, call 305-444-9293 or visit the Actors' Playhouse web site.

April 21, 2008

A fun night for Simon Cowell

This week's American Idol performance show is unlikely to bring out the love from British judge Simon Cowell. Among Cowell's evergreen damning-with-faint-praise assessments is pronouncing a performance "too Broadway" (the others being "hotel lounge," "karaoke," "theme park" and "cruise ship").  Yet Broadway is what this week's Idol is all about.

Theater_spamalot_revisited_2 Many Idols, winners and non-winners alike, have gone on to Broadway/Off-Broadway and other theater success, as this story in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram details.  Season two runnerup Clay Aiken (at left, in a wavy red wig) has attracted throngs of Claymates to the audience and the stage door during his current gig as Sir Robin in Broadway's Spamalot, and Fantasia got raves in her Color Purple stint.  These people can sing.  But as Cowell correctly points out, the purpose of American Idol is to find new pop/rock stars, not to troll for fresh Broadway talent.

This week, though, the Idol wannabes don't have much wiggle room. Phantom of the Opera composer Andrew Lloyd Webber -- that's Lord Lloyd Webber to you, peasants -- will coach the contestants as they try to deliver vote-getting versions of his songs from Phantom, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats. Even Sunset Boulevard?  For trainwreck potential, one can always hope.  Then we could join Cowell in his cringe-fest.

For more on Idol, check out Howard Cohen's Idol Watch blog.

April 18, 2008

A company goes bicoastal

Miami's scrappy Ground Up & Rising had a hit with artistic director Arturo Fernandez's play September 10th, about young New Yorkers before and after the life-changing Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

September_10th Several company members are giving Los Angeles a shot, so the group has formed Ground Up West.  First project is a reading of September 10th at 8 p.m. May 4 at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in L.A.  In the cast are Natalia Brea, Arnaldo Carmouze, Bill Cobbs, Austin Herbert, Sheaun McKinney and Carbonell Award winners Kameshia Duncan, Bechir Sylvain and Andrio Chavarro.  Cobbs is directing the free reading, but to make a reservation, call 405-514-0612 or email the box office.

Also on the company's drawing board: Los Angeles productions of The Meeting and the new play The Hate You Gave: The Tupac Shakur Story, written by and starring another South Florida actor, Meshaun Arnold.  Ground Up is also planning to produce September 10th in New York, and the company plans to bring the Obie-winning Living Theatre to South Florida. For info, visit the company's web site.

Miscellaneous Stuff

   *  The ongoing South Florida Theatre Festival has cancelled its forum on Yiddish theater because of participants' schedule conflicts.  But it has expanded a forum on ethnic theater, to be held Tuesday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. at New Theatre in Coral Gables. Charles Perez of WPLG-Channel 10 will moderate.

   *  The PlayGround Theatre's production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a South Florida-set adaptation by artistic director Stephanie Ansin, continues through May 4.  But the company has delayed its scheduled production of Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House due to renovations to the theater once Alice closes. That show, PlayGround's first aimed at adult audiences, will be part of the 2008-2009 season.

April 17, 2008

Arts and understanding

Susan Hyatt heads the many educational programs at Manalapan's Florida Stage, including the theater's Young Voices series.  On Monday, April 21, at 7 p.m., young voices from South Florida, Kosovo and Rwanda will be heard when the company presents the culmination of a project called Children of Conflict.

Flastage Beginning in August, students from West Palm Beach's G-Star School of the Arts, the Children's Center for Theatre Development in Pristina, Kosovo, and the Mashirika Creative and Performing Arts Group in Kigali, Rwanda, have been communicating and sharing their creativity via a special web site.  They have shared their writing, photographs and videos, and the American students have learned from the kids in Rwanda and Kosovo about growing up amid conflict.  The G-Star students created a theater piece to reflect those exchanges.

The program is free.  Florida Stage is at 262 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan. For more information, call  1-800-514-3837 or visit the company's web site.