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16 posts from February 2009

February 27, 2009

See Mickey, be Billy?

Trent Kowalik (Billy) photo by Carol Rosegg The most spectacular kid's part on Broadway at the moment is the title role in Billy Elliot the Musical.  The boy who plays young Billy, a kid from a British mining town who dreams of ballet stardom, has to dance (ballet, tap, street dancing), act (with an accent), sing and be able to handle gymnastics.  He is onstage for nearly all of the Elton John-Lee Hall show, performing six musical numbers.  Because of the role's demands, three different young dancer-actors play the role each week (Trent Kowalik, one of the Broadway Billys, is shown here in a photo by Carol Rosegg).

Because the show is a smash likely to run for a long time, its producers are in search of new Billys because, well, kids do grow.  Casting reps are coming to Orlando on Saturday, March 7, to hold auditions for boys ages 9 to 12 at the Orlando Ballet School's south location, 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., with sign-up beginning at 1:30 p.m.  The show is looking to cast boys in the starring role and the part of Billy's friend Michael.

The basic requirements are that the auditioner be a strong dancer who can sing, no taller than 4'10", no broken voices.  Each Billy hopeful should bring a recent photo, sneakers (plus tap and ballet shoes if possible), drinks, a snack and comfortable clothes (no leotards/tights).  The kids will learn the audition piece and need to be able to stay all day if necessary.

Think this might match up with the talents of a kid you know? Visit the Be Billy web site for more information.

February 26, 2009

Showtunes get a folksy spin

Rachel Jones Like the Carbonell Awards voters who have honored Rachel Jones with three awards (and four additional nominations), I have always loved hearing this talented actress sing.  The first time I remember seeing her, she was in a wondrous production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris with her parents, actors Mona and Dennis Jones.  She was a teen then, but her clear voice was already beautifully distinctive.

Jones has chalked up numerous theatrical achievements in the ensuing years, both in her native South Florida and elsewhere: doing Rent in Berlin, appearing on Broadway in Meet Me in St. Louis and The Boys from Syracuse, playing Hodel to Theodore Bikel's Tevye in a touring Fiddler on the Roof, starring as Anna opposite Lou Diamond Phillips in The Kind and I in Dallas, playing the title role in Evita (in English and Spanish) at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables.  Her most recent South Florida gig was in Actors' production of Urinetown last season, a performance that won her another Carbonell.

Now, under the name Rachel Bay Jones, the actress turns to a reinterpretation of theater songs on her debut solo CD ShowFolk.  Working with producer David Truskinoff, guitarist Bobby Baxmeyer, fiddle player Sam Bardfeld and other folk/bluegrass pros, Jones puts a folk spin on 11 songs from Broadway shows, some obvious candidates for that treatment, some not.  You'll hear Breeze Off the River from The Full Monty (my favorite cut); Little Bird, Little Bird from Man of La Mancha; Lucky To Be Me from On the Town; Stars and the Moon from Songs for a New World; The Streets of Dublin from A Man of No Importance by Stephen Flaherty (who calls her performance of the song "a revelation"); Left Behind from Spring Awakening; For Good from Wicked; Gonna Build a Mountain from Stop the World -- I Want To Get Off; Where, Oh Where (Is My Baby Darlin'?) from The Robber Bridegroom; Wicked Little Town from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and a haunting Another Day from Rent.

You can sample the CD on Jones' website, at CD Baby or iTunes.  South Florida fans of Jones' theater work -- and anyone who loves pure, folk-flavored singing -- should enjoy listening.

February 25, 2009

The Caldwell reveals its new season (maybe)

Dangerous09Though the folks at Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company are busy prepping for Friday's official opening of Michael McKeever's new play Dangerous (and, checking out the show's poster, who can blame them for staying focused on this world premiere riff on Les Liaison Dangereuses?), the company's February/March newsletter lifts the lid on what may be its 2009-2010 season lineup.

The qualifier is that all plays are still "in negotiation," and things do change as hot titles become available.  But here's what artistic director Michael Hall has in mind for next season.

He plans to begin with David Mamet's adaptation of Harley Granville-Barker's The Voysey Inheritance, about a family whose skimming of money from its clients is scandalously revealed. Hmmm. The play will run Nov. 8-Dec. 13.  Next is Lauren Wilson's Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play (Jan. 3-Feb. 7, 2010).  Matthew Lopez's drama The Whipping Man, about a Jewish Confederate soldier confronted by two former slaves, is scheduled Feb. 21-March 28.  And Donald Margulies' Collected Stories, about a famous writer and her protege, is to close next season April 11-May 16, 2010.

February 23, 2009

Selling their Sol

Robert Hooker, Tony Priddy and Jim Gibbons founded Fort Lauderdale's Sol Theatre Project in 2001.  Eight years later, Hooker and Priddy -- partners in life as well as business -- are moving on.

Sol TheatreIt isn't really the rotten economy (though Priddy was a victim of downsizing) nor lack of success with the company that convinced the two that it's time to start a new chapter in their lives.  Hooker's parents, who live in South Carolina, are getting older, and he's considering a college teaching job there so he can be closer to them.

So for those reasons, Sol is for sale. The funky little 67-seat theater across from the railroad tracks that run along Flagler Drive just north of Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale just happens to be one of the coolest, cosiest theater spaces in South Florida.  Patrons sits on chairs and sofas.  They take wine, beer and munchies with them.  The atmosphere is part art, part party.

Through its eight-year history, Sol has tackled wildly eclectic fare: Shakespeare's The Tempest, Athol Fugard's The Road to Mecca, Diana Son's Stop Kiss, Wallace Shawn's Aunt Dan and Lemon, Edwin Sanchez's Trafficking in Broken Hearts, David Auburn's Proof, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.  Some of the productions were quite good, others not so much, and that vacillating about artistic identity may have been what kept Sol from growing larger.

Right now, Sol is doing Eric Bogosian's Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll with three actors, and Hooker says he has one more show in mind before he and Priddy head up I-95.  The two don't own the building where Sol is located, but the rent is decent, and they're offering the 1,800 square foot theater space with all the equipment included.  For more info on Sol, visit the web site.

Here's hoping the right person or group gets the space, and that good theater will flourish there.  Andthat Hooker and Priddy find continued artistic fulfillment a little farther north.


February 20, 2009

Revolution hits a Cuban ad agency

Over at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables at the moment, artistic director David Arisco is busy doing what he usually does:  rehearsing a large-scale musical (in this case Les Miserables, which opens March 6).  But once Les Miz is open and running, Arisco will get to work on a challenging, resonant play which may wind up featuring some faces well known to anyone addicted to Ugly Betty, Cold Case and several other current television shows.

Hbcast02 The play is Havana Bourgeois by actor-playwright Carlos Lacámara (seated in the photo, with the blue shirt, with the play's Los Angeles cast), set to run at Actors' Playhouse May 13-June 7.  Funny, observant and chilling, the play unfolds in a Havana advertising agency from 1958 to 1960, as Fidel Castro forever changed life outside the agency's walls.  As the agency's creative talents move from pushing gasoline and toothpaste to selling a revolution that has turned their lives upside down, unsettling individual dramas play out.

Lacámara got a well-received production of the play at a small L.A. theater in August 2007, but the upcoming Actors' Playhouse version has larger ambitions -- perhaps Broadway, eventually.  No actors have been signed yet, but rumor has it that former Miamians Danny Pino of Cold Case and Tony Plana of Ugly Betty are seriously interested; ditto film and TV actor Julio Mechoso, and one or two other names.

So, though we don't yet know who will wind up on the Actors' Playhouse stage, it's certain that Havana Bourgeois -- a play with meaning for so many in South Florida -- is coming.  For info, visit the theater's web site.

February 18, 2009

Divine decadence and lunch at the Caldwell

DANGEROUS 1 (LENA_ALEC)#9C15South Florida's busiest playwright, the multi-talented Michael McKeever, adds fundraiser star to his skill set on Tuesday, Feb. 24, when Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company serves up a behind-the-scenes luncheon focused on its world premiere of McKeever's new work Dangerous.

Set in Berlin and Potsdam in 1930, the play is an adult love story (with nudity) described as Les Liaisons Dangereuses deconstructed.  It is one of South Florida two world premieres this season from the Davie-based playwright, the other being Lewd and Lasciviousat GableStage Aug. 15-Sept. 13.  (Hmmmm....Seems like the thematically/stylistically adventurous McKeever is exploring his licentious side this season.)


McKeever will dine and dish with anyone who's interested in learning more about the development of a new play.  With the Caldwell's Michael Hall fielding questions, the playwright, director Clive Cholerton and the cast will explore how a playwright works with the artistic director, director, cast and designers; what everyone learned during the rehearsal process; how the play evolved, and more.

The price for the 11;30 a.m. lunch and all that artistic enlightenment is just $20.  Call the box office at 1-877-245-7432 or visit the Caldwell's web site.  The play begins previews at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, has additional previews Tuesday-Thursday, and opens at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27.  Dangerous runs through March 29.

(Sean Lawson photos show cast members Marta Reiman and David A. Rudd as Lena and Alec, Ashley Ellenburg as Anita.)

February 17, 2009

Getting a jump on next season

The Davie-based Promethean Theatre, celebrating its trio of 2008 Carbonell Award nominations for its production of Nilo Cruz's Two Sisters and a Piano, has lifted the lid on a vintage 2009-2010 season lineup.

Tpt_reverse_logo-440x71 The fall brings Promethean's production of David Mamet's 1988 play Speed-the-Plow, a play about two movie biz sharks and the calculating secretary who comes between them.  The current Broadway revival starring ex-Miamian Raul Esparza, Elisabeth Moss of TV's Mad Menand movie star William H. Macy (who replaced Norbert Leo Butz, who replaced understudy Jordan Lage, who replaced the mercurial Jeremy Piven) winds up its Broadway run this Sunday.

Next winter, Promethean plans a production of the late Nobel winner Harold Pinter's 1957 play The Dumb Waiter, a darkly comic piece about an edgy pair of hit men.  Spring 2010 brings Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 play about the relationship of a cranky white Southern lady and the black driver her son foists upon her.

Interested? Visit Promethean's web site.

February 16, 2009

With Carbonells come kudos and kvetching

CarbonellSo the nominations for the 33rd annual Carbonell Awards have gone public, and though Monday is dark and a holiday, I can vividly picture the joy and rage flowing through South Florida's theater world.

Happiest, I'd guess, are the folks at Palm Beach Dramaworks, the small but artistically adventurous West Palm Beach company that got more nominations -- 15 -- than any other company (including several far larger theaters) in South Florida.  Primarily because of its widely-lauded production of Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs and Stephen Temperley's Souvenir (about tone-deaf opera diva wannabe Florence Foster Jenkins), Dramaworks earned smirking rights. How many of those nominations will turn into egg-shaped bronze awards on April 6 when the Carbonells are bestowed remains to be seen, but Dramaworks deserves whatever champagne its artists might be quaffing tonight.

Adding Machine His miserable look in the Adding Machine publicity photo aside, Oscar Cheda is probably celebrating too (ditto best actress nominee Maribeth Graham, she of the wagging finger).  Cheda got two acting nominations, one for Adding Machine, the GableStage musical that got more nominations -- 12 -- than any other show of 2008.  The dense, challenging musical paid off for artistic director Joseph Adler, who was nominated for his staging of Adding Machine but got shut out of nominations for best director of a play -- an award he has won five times since 2002.  Despite his record of artistic excellence and his winning streak, the opinionated Adler has never been shy (as if) about criticizing what he sees as flaws in the Carbonell system.  So who knows? Maybe the Carbonell judges bit back a little this year.

I wouldn't know -- though I participate in the program as a nominator, I'm not a judge, so I have no say in who gets nominated,nor in who wins.  But I'm a critic, so of course I have opinions. And so I'll share a few.

For the most part, I think the judges got it right.  Nothing on the nominees list jumps out as a what-were-they-thinking choice, though there were a few egregious omissions.  Work at most of the region's good companies (with the exception of Miami's Mad Cat, which is one of South Florida's boldest troupes) got noticed.  New Theatre's decision to focus on new plays paid off with four "best new work,"  to the misfortune of Seafarer Manalapan's Florida Stage, which has a far longer (and, I'd argue, better) track record of bringing new scripts to life (Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics at New Theatre being a glorious exception).  I might have put Jessica Goldberg's Ward 57 at Florida Stage into the new work category instead of Jules Tasca's The Mission at New Theatre, for instance. But I wasn't one of the "deciders."

Likewise, I would have included the cast of the Women's Theatre Project's Jar the Floor in the best ensemble nominations.  I would have given GableStage's Blackbird a best play nod.  I would have nominated Ken Clement as best supporting actor for Mosaic's The Seafarer.  And so on.

But as noted, I'm not a judge. So I'll be just as surprised as the rest of the theater community when the Carbonells are divved up at the Broward Center in April.  Tickets this year are cheaper, just $25 (or $20 each, if you have a group of 10), and they go on sale Feb. 27 via the Broward Center web site.  For a complete list of nominees, check the Herald online.


February 13, 2009

Interactive theater slays me

If given the choice of going to an interactive theater production or getting a root canal, I have to say that in my case, the dentist might win out.  Sure, I know craft and effort are involved in the shows, and I know some folks have a ball at faux weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs and the like.  So call me crazy, but II prefer to participate in the ceremonies of life when I actually know the people being celebrated or mourned.  And if I want to see a great show, I'll buy a ticket to one; if I want a great meal, I'll go to a restaurant.  The interactive theater combo, for me, seldom delivers.

But anyone who would heartily disagree might want to know that another interactive show opens next week, joining the already-running The Boychick Affair: The Bar Mitzvah of Harry Boychik, at which you can have a laugh and a nosh through March 8.

The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which has already played host to Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding (at least twice -- though I've stopped counting), has invited a bunch of wannabe wise guys over for Murdered by the Mob.  The premise is that a newly anointed Godfather is throwing a little celebration dinner, and youse all are invited. 

The show runs Feb. 19 to March 1 in the Abdo New River Room at the Center, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  Tickets are $59.50, and the tab includes an Italian dinner.  Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday, 1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  Call 954-462-0222 or check the web site, so you shouldn't have to sleep with the fishes.  Me? I'll be at the dentist.

February 12, 2009

Pinter at home; "The Cook" heats up

Conundrum Stages is taking on the challenge of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming for its next staged reading at 8 p.m. Feb. 20.  And appropriately, this reading will take place at a home:  The Yellow House at 420 NE 23rd St. in Miami. 

In association with the Jesus Quintero Studio (The Yellow House is both home and performance space for the Columbian-born Quintero and his wife), Kevin Johnson directs a cast featuring Mitchell Carry, Chris Groom, Kevin Reilley, Joshua Ritter, David Sirois and Skye Whitcomb, Revived on Broadway last season (where it featured Miami's Raul Esparza in a Tony-nominated performance), The Homecoming is the late Nobel laureate Pinter's exploration of the disaster that ensues when a professor brings his new wife home to meet his working-class family.  For info, call 954-673-5124.


Cook Florida International University did well -- quite well -- in the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival regional competition in Greensboro, N.C.  The university's production of Eduardo Machado's The Cook was judged the regional fest's best show and is a contender for the national competition.  Design students Yamarys Salomon (scenic design), Greg Contreras (lighting design) and Jason Torres (makeup design) also won regional top honors and will compete at the nationals at the Kennedy Center in April.

FIU theater faculty members were also recognized at the competition: Jesse Dreikosen for his set design for The Cook, Tony Galaska for lighting design (for The Cook and Spring's Awakening), and directors Wayne E. Robinson Jr. (Electricidad), Phillip Church (Spring's Awakening) and Stephen Neal (The Underpants).

Congrats to all!