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18 posts from May 2008

May 15, 2008

Kids expressing themselves

School is starting to wind down, but kids who love acting are busy performing or looking towards summer.

Mulan_press_photoThis weekend and next, Miami Children's Theater presents Mulan, the stage musical version of the popular animated Disney movie.  Mackenzie Dorr, Katie Susik, Crystal Ortiz and Katarina Martinez (at left in Lenny Rohrbacher's photo) are among the young actors who tell the story of a brave girl who fights to save China's emperor. 

Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. through May 24 at the Coral Gables Youth Center, 405 University Dr., Coral Gables.  Tickets are $10-$12 in advance, $18-$20 at the door. For more information, call 305-274-3595 or visit the Miami Children's Theater web site.

Prometeitos_navidad_061 For parents looking for a summer camp experience that is arts-filled and educational might want to check out Los Prometeitos Summer Camp at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.  Run by Teatro Prometeo Theatre at the Florida Center for the Literary Arts, the camp offers three week-long sessions in June in which kids will dance, sing and act -- in Spanish.  The fee for each session is $150.  For information, call 305-237-3262 or visit Prometeo's web site.

Prometeo is also offering vocational theater classes in Spanish for adults and, from May 19-31, a bilingual master class with Neil David Seibel.  Check the web site for details.

May 13, 2008

Tony time for a South Florida trio?

Nominations for the 62nd annual Tony Awards were announced in New York this morning, with a svelte Sara Ramirez (wearing a neon chartreuse number) and a serious David Hyde Pierce (he wore a suit) doing the honors.

Among the names called were those of three guys who grew up in South Florida.

Alexheadshot_2 Alex Lacamoire, whose parents (Maria and Alfredo) and sister (Michelle) all live in Miami, is up for the Tony for best orchestrations (along with Bill Sherman) for In the Heights, a joyous musical set in Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood.  Lacamoire, who graduated from the New World School of the Arts high school program, is a hot Broadway orchestrator/musical director these days.  And he gets to share in all the pre-Tony excitement surrounding this Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, which earned 13 Tony nominations -- more than any other musical or play of the 2007-2008 Broadway season.

Epstein Also up for a Tony is producer Adam Epstein, who grew up on Miami Beach.  Epstein has been the producing force behind the development of Cry-Baby, a musical based on the 1990 John Waters movie that starred Johnny Depp.  The show got mixed reviews (some good, some negative, some truly mixed), but its Tony nomination as best musical should be a help at the box office.

Raul And for the second year in a row, former Miamian Raul Esparza is up for a Tony (his third nomination).  Last year, he was a strong contender for leading actor in a musical for his portrayal of bachelor Bobby in Company, though he lost to Hyde Pierce.  This year's nomination is his first for work in a play, for his performance as the brutal Lenny in the revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming.  Though that production is now closed, so are all the other plays with nominees in the featured actor category. 

The Tony Awards will be presented from 8 to 11 p.m. June 15 in a ceremony at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall.  For more info, visit the Tonys web site.  And to Alex, Adam and Raul: way to go!

May 12, 2008

It's Tony time

Nominations for the 62nd annual Tony Awards will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning in Manhattan.  David Hyde Pierce, the Tony-winning star of Curtains and TV's long-running Frasier, and Sara  Ramirez, who won a Tony for Spamalot and is now a Grey's Anatomy star, will do the honors. And I'll be among the gaggle of media types watching it all unfold live.

South00_pacific_wknd_jm I've been seeing this spring's crop of Broadway shows since last Wednesday, so I know that certain nominations are sure things.  Lincoln Center Theater's glorious revival of South Pacific will be the front-runner for best revival of a musical.  Opera star Paulo Szot will be nominated as best actor in a musical -- and should win.  He's from the Errol Flynn-Kevin Kline school of handsome leading men, his acting is of a piece with the other performances in the show (terrific), and when he sings This Nearly Was Mine, he earns a mad chorus of "bravos" for his thrilling show-stopper (if Szot doesn't give you chills, check to see if you have a pulse).  His slender blonde costar, Kelli O'Hara, will get a best actress in a musical nod (deservedly so -- she's wonderful).  But Patti LuPone is as close to a sure thing as you can get in that category.  Her Mama Rose in the revival of Gypsy is a magnificent, force-of-nature star performance.  She gets "bravos" and a standing "o" after Rose's Turn.

As for plays, Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County has little competition for the best play Tony.  If you know Letts' work (Bug, Killer Joe), imagine that crossbred with Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, and you get a hint of what Letts' darkly funny, disturbing, long family drama is about.  Deanna Dunagan, who plays the clan's dying, pill-popping, tart-tongued matriarch Violet, is a shoo-in for a best actress nomination (and will probably win).  But Amy Morton, a fellow Steppenwolf company member who plays Violet's eldest daughter, is mesmerizingly good too.

Intheheights00_one_mdt_3The season's new musicals are all over the place, from the colorful spoofiness of Cry-Baby to the campy Xanadu to the old-fashioned A Catered Affair to the intriguing, rock-driven Passing Strange.  A disappointing Young Frankenstein proves that, despite all the roiling storms onstage, lightning (ala The Producers) didn't strike twice for Mel Brooks.  I'm betting that Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights, a joyous musical about people from different Latino cultures living and loving in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, is going to get multiple nominations -- and quite probably, the win.

Feeling lucky? Take a chance on "Q"

Sure, it's a promotional gimmick.  But there's never anything wrong with saving some green.

Lottery_letter2 Taking a page from the Rent playbook, the folks behind Avenue Q are selling 20 front orchestra seats for $25 each at every performance of the Tony Award-winning people-and-puppet musical at Miami's Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Regular tickets are $20 (but those are in nosebleed territory, mostly) to $68, so $25 for one of the best seats in the house is a good deal.  As the show's porn-obsessed Trekkie Monster details at left, all you have to do is show up 2 1/2 hours before showtime, put your name in a lottery bin and wait to see if you're one of the lucky ones; if so, you can buy one or two tickets, cash only.

Need Q info? Call the box office at 786-949-6722 or visit the Arsht Center web site.

And just in case you didn't catch the part about Trekkie being an Internet porn junkie, Avenue Q (despite the puppets) is no kiddie show. Mature teens and older only.

May 08, 2008

Bravos for South Florida theater

The third Theatre League of South Florida festival is almost history, and at the closing night party on Monday, individuals, organizations and productions will be honored with an array of awards.

Sofi00_girls_wknd_pt League president Meredith Lasher has announced winners of a dozen Silver Palm awards, a new honor created for this year’s festival.  Also slated for recognition at the closing event are Jack Zink, Sun-Sentinel theater critic and Carbonell Awards co-founder, who will get the Lifetime Achievement Award; producer Jay Harris, who will get the Remy Pioneer Award; and League vice-president Ron Levitt, who will get the Remy Service Award.

Winners of the inaugural Silver Palms, recognizing work done during the festival, are Jim Stork of Stork’s Las Olas, WLRN, the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs and Doug Jones of Sixth Star Entertainment and Marketing, all for outstanding contributions to the festival; The Naked Stage, outstanding emerging theater company; and Jules Tasca, whose play The Mission at New Theatre was chosen outstanding new work.

Mississippi Performance winners are the ensemble casts of Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s) at Mad Cat Theatre Company (that's the photo at left, above) and Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland’s From the Mississippi Delta at M Ensemble(pictured at right); and Ricky Waugh in New Theatre’s The Mission and Promethean Theatre’s Two Sisters and a Piano, Erik Fabregat in Mosaic Theatre’s Dirty Story, Bruce Adler in New Vista Theatre’s I’m Not Rappaport and Nanique Gheridian in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ Benefactors, all for their outstanding performances.

Theatre League members get into the party, which is at 7:30 p.m. at Stork’s Las Olas, 1109 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, for free.  But anyone else can come too, for a $20 donation to the Theatre League.  For info or a reservation, email the organization’s executive director, Andie Arthur.

Congrats to all the winners!

May 06, 2008

A designing gentleman departs

I spoke to Alvin Colt, aTony Award-winning costume designer, before Forbidden Broadway began its "vacation" run in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in March.

Colt200_2 Colt (at left in a photo by Aubrey Reuben for Playbill) was 92, a Theatre Hall of Fame inductee who made his Broadway designing debut with the musical On the Town -- 'way back in 1944. He designed for great shows (Guys and Dolls was his) and great stars through the decades, and for the past 15 years was the clever, twisted costume creator for Forbidden Broadway, parodying costumes as deftly as revue creator Gerard Alessandrini spoofed the shows.

Over the phone from his home in New York, Colt was effervescent as he spoke of his work on Forbidden Broadway

Spam23_forbidden_tlsunday_r "I try to see the shows they want to make fun of," he told me.  "I coudln't get anyone to go to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with me...But I had a great time. I loved a lot about it.  The [show's flying] car was sensational.  It went right over my head.  So I thought, 'I guess it's showgirl time.'

He turned a cast member into a semblance of the car, giving her "plastic wings, a horn, spotlights on each boob."  For Spamalot, he crowned Arthur (Michael West, in Ronna Gradus photo at right) with cans of Spam.

Colt passed away on Sunday.  The many obituaries that followed, like this one from Playbill, took note of his lifetime of accomplishments.  But the facts didn't quite convey either his charm or his sense of humor -- not the way his Forbidden Broadway costumes did.

May 02, 2008

Insight into a mind brought low

The most exciting play in South Florida at the moment is Naked Stage's extraordinarily inventive production of Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis, a chilling and fascinating trip through the mind of a suicidal woman.  Next Friday, Miami gets another highly creative theater piece (this one rooted in poetry and hip-hop), a play that explores similar territory in a different but equally powerful way.

Rhagoddess_trilogypic6 The author and performer of the solo show Low: Meditations Trilogy Part 1 rechristened herself Rha Goddess in 2001.  Born Rhamelle Greene, the geek-turned-poet majored in chemistry and computer science at Vassar.  She turned to writing as a way of sorting out her feelings about the deaths of friends and loved ones, about mental illness in her family, about the suicide of a mentor.  In 2006, Low -- her first full theater piece -- shook up audiences at the prestigious Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville.  That's where I saw it and was moved to tears.

A multimedia piece about a young woman and aspiring hip-hop artist named Lowquisha, Low traces a journey from innocence to madness.  The story is stark, warm-hearted, tragic, totally involving.

The play, presented by the Miami Light Project and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, visits the Carnival Studio Theater at the Arsht Center at 8 p.m. May 9-10.  Tickets are $25.  Call 305-949-6722 for information.

Rha Goddess will do a post-performance question and answer session May 9.  Prior to her Miami shows, she and Peter Fraenkel from the Hip-Hop Mental Health Project will discuss mental illness during WLRN-91.3 FM's Topical Currents show at 1 p.m. May 7.

May 01, 2008

Summer musicals (and a play)

Each summer, Florida Atlantic University theater students team up with a few professional actors to offer South Florida's equivalent of summer stock theater in Boca Raton.

Blanton__simon_copy Two musicals and a play are on tap for the 2008 Festival Repertory Theatre lineup, and there's a bit of a twist to this year's casting:  Trent Blanton and Rebecca Simon, married Equity actors, are playing lead roles in Carousel and Evita -- and in both shows, they'll be husband and wife.  In the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein Carousel, which runs June 20-July 5, Simon plays Julie Jordan opposite Blanton's Billy Bigelow.  In Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Evita, which runs July 11-27, Simon is Eva Peron, Blanton her esposo Juan.

There is a third professional actor, Bruce Linser, in FAU's summer company, and a third show: A Thurber Carnival, a play based on the work of cartoonist-humorist James Thurber.

FAU is offering a see-more/pay-less deal on tickets.  The price for one show is $20, two shows $30 and all three shows $39.99 (FAU faculty, staff and alumni pay less, as do groups and kids).  For info, call 1-800-564-9539 or visit the FAU web site.