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15 posts from April 2009

April 13, 2009

Theater lover's heaven

 The critics I know in South Florida have been joking about this week -- some loving/dreading it -- for several months.  For whatever reason, six major South Florida companies have scheduled openings of new shows within three days this week.  For theater lovers, it's bliss.  For critics, it's "what do I see when" and "thank God gas isn't over $4 a gallon any more."

I'll tell you a little more about each of these shows as the week goes on, but here's what's opening:

M Ensemble is opening I Ain't Yo Uncle: The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom's Cabin, Robert Alexander's biting satire of the Harriet Beecher Stowe classic, on Thursday, April 16, at 8 p.m.

Mosaic Theatre begins performances of Winter Miller's In Darfur, about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Thursday at 8 p.m.

MAURITIUS photo A New Theatre starts performances of Theresa Rebeck's Mauritius, about half-sisters who inherit trouble along with a rare stamp collection, at 8 p.m. Thursday. (That's Michaela Cronan pictured in Mauritius)

The Caldwell Theatre Company has previews Tuesday-Thursday, April 14-16, and a Friday opening of its Agatha Christie musical spoof Something's Afoot.

Broward Stage Door Theatre opens Stephen Sondheim's Tony-winning A Little Night Music at 2 p.m. Thursday.

And GableStage opens its production of Nilaja Sun's No Child, with Lela Elam playing 16 characters at a public school, on Saturday, April 18, at 8 p.m.

April 10, 2009

"Tupac" is back

Tupac Ground Up & Rising, the exciting young South Florida theater company that has yet to find a permanent home, is taking its act to two more venues.  The Hate U Gave:  The Tupac Shakur Story, an explosive biographical play written by and starring Meshaun Labrone Arnold, debuted last summer in a Ground Up production in Kendall.  It returns next week, first playing ArtSouth, 240 N. Krome Ave. in Homestead, then moving to the Byron Carlyle, 500 71st St. on Miami Beach.

Performances at ArtSouth are 8 p.m. April 17-18, 3 p.m. April 19, and tickets are just $15 ($10 for students, seniors and miltary personnel).  Get tickets via the ArtSouth web site or by calling 305-247-9406.  Shows at the Byron Carlyle are 8 p.m. April 24-25 and May 1-2.  Tickets there are $25 and $40 ($20 for students, seniors and military).  Call 305-867-4194 or visit the Ground Up & Rising web site.

Arturo Fernandez, the company's artistic director, plans a full season at ArtSouth.  Following The Hate U Gaveare John Kolvenbach's On an Average Day, Stephen Adly Guirgis' Jesus Hopped the A Train, a music-theater collaboration with Project Copernicus and a production of Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman.

April 07, 2009

Carbonell Awards become a "theater prom"

AmymichaelThe 33rd annual Carbonell Awards were handed out Monday night in a moving, entertaining, raucous and altogether memorable ceremony in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  Countless talented South Florida theater folks were involved, but the mind and vision that shaped this year's show belong to Executive Producer/Director Amy London, who did a spectacular job.  (That's Amy at left with playwright/actor/Carbonell program designer Michael McKeever.)

London's Carbonells weren't as flashy as those in recent years.  No orchestra, no Vegas/cruise ship production numbers, no out-of-town "celebs" without connections to (or knowledge of) South Florida theater.  Instead, the show was by, of and for the region's theater artists.  And it was also both more meaningful and more memorable.

Stage_Dade_wkend26Thanks to the magic of Power Point, when nominees in each category were announced, a production photo or picture of the artist at work reminded everyone of the richness of the talent that graced South Florida Stages in 2008.  Instead of random Broadway musical numbers, London's show featured a number from each of the productions vying for the best musical Carbonell.  After a terrifically witty opening number by Laura Hodos and Maribeth Graham (Carbonell-skewering lyrics set to the tune of Stephen Sondheim's Getting Married Today from Company) and the presentation of four design awards, the entire cast of GableStage's Adding Machine (except for Ken Clement, who didn't sing in the show) emerged to demonstrate why London's musical-highlighting notion was such a fine idea.

Oscar Cheda, Jim Ballard, Stacy Schwartz, Graham -- all of whom won Carbonells for their work in the show -- and the stellar "chorus" (Irene Adjan, Erik Fabregat, Lisa Manuli and Barry Tarallo) sang the heck out of one of the musical's devilishly complex numbers, as their Carbonell-winning musical director Erik Alsford accompanied them on the piano.  Later, director Joseph Adler and the show itself won Carbonells.  That musical moment was a vivid demonstration of how artistic risk can bring rewards and of how deep South Florida's talent pool has become.

Argue23_mosaic_mds_ers  Because of the dominance of Adding Machine, GableStage had a great night. So did Mosaic Theatre, the company that American Heritage School grad Richard Jay Simon started at his Plantation alma mater and built, with amazing speed, into one of the region's powerhouse companies.  Mosaic's production of Conor McPherson's The Seafarer brought it multiple Carbonells, including best production of a play and best director for Simon.  Gregg Weiner (at right in photo with Seafarer cast mate and fellow nominee John Felix) was named best actor.  Dennis Creaghan, who beat out Felix for best supporting actor, acknowledged his cast mate by musing that maybe there should have been a recount, Felix hollered good-naturedly from the audience, "I want one."

Among the evening's other high points:  When Actors' Playhouse artistic director David Arisco received the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, he actually spoke about the honor's legendary Broadway namesake, recalling how much it had meant to have Abbott in the audience at Actors' when he staged Damn Yankees (a show Abbott co-authored and directed on Broadway in the year Arisco was born).

Among low points:  award recipients who took advantage of London's decision not to put a time limit acceptance speeches by gushing and babbling endlessly; "artists" who seem unable to speak into a microphone without dropping f-bombs; one obviously alcohol-powered actor-director who kept yelling another director's name from the audience.  The Carbonells may have turned into a happy "theater prom" this year, but they're a celebration of a professional community, not a time-trip back to high school.

The theater community will, inevitably, do plenty of Tuesday-morning quarterbacking about who did/didn't win Carbonells.  But the show itself?  London did herself and South Florida theater proud.

April 06, 2009

Spidey does Broadway

Spider man If Shrek can do it, so can Spider-Man.  The guy best known from comic books and mega-hit movies is coming to Broadway in January 2010.  And the cred of its creative team is pretty major --  music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge of U2 fame, direction by Tony Award winner Julie Taymor, script by Taymor and playwright Glen Berger.

On their to-do list:  find a cast.  To that end, Telsey + Company is doing casting calls in Orlando, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and Austin.  And Orlando's up first, this Thursday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Orlando Marriott World Center, 8701 World Center Dr.

The team is looking for someone to play Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man; his girlfriend Mary Jane; and the lead female villain.  The first two should be 16 to 20-something, the bad gal from 25 to 35.  All need powerful rock voices.

For info, e-mail  SpiderManCasting@gmail.com or visit the show's web site.

April 01, 2009

TV stars hit South Florida stages

Three Latino stars from current television shows have decided to exercise their stage chops in South Florida in April and May.

Lauren Velez as shot by Glenn Campbell 031First up is Lauren Vélez, who has been multitasking lately as both Lt. Maria LaGuerta on Showtime's Dexter and the love interest of Betty Suarez's dad Ignacio on Ugly Betty.  Vélez is coming to Miami Beach's Colony Theater for a single performance of La Lupe, James Manos Jr.'s solo show about Cuban diva Victoria Guadalupe Yoli, aka La Lupe.  The show's producers are hoping to drum up financing for a feature film about the woman known as the "Queen of Latin Soul."   The show is in English, but Vélez also performs some of the Spanish-language numbers La Lupe sang as lead singer with Tito Puente's band.  La Lupe happens at 7:30 p.m. April 15 at the Colony, 1040 Lincoln Rd.  Tickets are $35, available through Ticketmaster

Danny PinoAlso headed to a South Florida stage for a much longer run are Danny Pino of TV's Cold Case and Tony Plana of Ugly Betty (yes, the guy who's been romancing Vélez's character).  Both men will star in the Actors' Playhouse production of Carlos Lacámara's Havana Bourgeois, a play set in a Cuban advertising agency from 1958-60.

Pino, who plays Detective Scotty Valens on Cold Case, is a guy who knows Miami well.  He grew up in South Florida, graduating from Coral Park High School and Florida International University -- and he still has lots of family in Miami.

Havana Bourgeois will be at Actors' Playhouse, 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, from May 13 to June 7.  Performances are 8 p.m.Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday (and there's an extra matinee May 20).  A talk-back session follows the performance May 22.  Tickets are $48 Friday-Saturday evening, $40 other performances, $35 for previews May 13-14.  Call 305-444-9293 or visit the Actors' web site for information.