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16 posts from November 2009

November 10, 2009

Through the looking glass to Tampa

New plays are born all over the United States, but new musicals -- particularly those with Broadway aspirations (and face it, almost all of them fit that category) -- can have a tougher time finding a place to incubate.  They have larger creative teams, tend to have larger casts and are more expensive to produce than most plays.  Florida has rarely been a proving ground for new musicals, but the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and its president Judith Lisi are aiming to change all that something called the Broadway Genesis Project and a $3 million production of Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure.

Janet Dacal in recording studio - photo by Jeremy RobertsWith a score by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Jack Murphy, and a book by Murphy and director Gregory Boyd, the musical follows a contemporary, grown-up Alice into a New York Wonderland searching for her young daughter.  Its star is South Florida girl-turned-Broadway star Janet Dacal, whose most recent gig was in the world premiere of the Tony Award-winning In the Heights on Broadway.

Dacal, who graduated from Coral Park High School and Florida International University, isn't the only Wonderland talent with South Florida ties.  Wildhorn, who had three musicals running on Broadway 10 years ago (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War), went to Hollywood Hills High School and attended the University of Miami before moving to California.

As with his other shows, Wildhorn has already released a concept recording of Wonderland: Alice's New Musical.  It features Dacal on several cuts, along with fellow cast members Jose Llana, Darren Ritchie, Nikki Snelson and Karen Mason, the Broadway-cabaret veteran who plays the Queen of Hearts. You can hear the music or buy the CD at the show's web site.

And, of course, if you're up for a road trip, you can catch the show before it moves on to Houston's Alley Theatre (where Boyd is the artistic director) and, just maybe, to Broadway.

Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure previews at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center Nov. 24-Dec. 4, then has a gala opening Dec. 5.  It will run through Jan. 3, then play the Alley Jan. 15-Feb. 14.  Performances in Tampa are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.  Preview tickets range from $23.50 to $52.50, and gala tickets are $250-$450.  Regular ticket prices -- $31.50-$72.50 -- kick in on Dec. 6.

For information, call 1-800-955-1045 or check out that Wonderland web site.

November 09, 2009

Theater manners, continued

ARSHT_WALWORTH_PH_2__by_RobertDay I have kvetched in this blog before -- and, given human nature, will undoubtedly do so again (many times) -- about the "manners" of some of the folks with whom we share audience space when we go to the theater.

Thanks to preshow spiels, we are reminded nearly every time we go to a play or musical of what not to do.  As in, turn off your cellphone and don't use it during the show.  No taking of photos or videos. Do not text during the show.  Do not talk during the show.  If you feel compelled to suck on a candy or a cough drop, take off that crinkly wrapper now.  Those who don't like being told what to do, particularly when they've paid upwards of $50 (or far more) for a ticket, can get their backs up all they want.  Some of these restrictions are actual union regulations, but really, adhering to them means everyone has a shot at actually enjoying the show.

Still, the preshow announcement doesn't cover all potential audience misbehavior.  I was reminded of that when I went to see Enda Walsh's The Walworth Farce in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Arsht Center last week.  The black-box theater space can be configured many ways, and for the Druid Theatre Company's production, the audience sat on not-too-comfortable chairs on risers facing the stage.  To exit, you had to walk down from the risers, approaching the stage before making a turn for the door.  And the floor, I should mention, is noisy.

So on opening night, a woman seated to my left made it through the first act and, though the guy with her bailed, she came back for the second act.  But midway through it, she decided she was bored or needed to make a call or had to visit the ladies' room or wanted to grab a drink -- who knows?  So she squeezed out to the aisle, tromped down the riser and click-clacked her way across the floor as the actors went bravely, frantically on while the audience watched the woman make her exit.

No, the moment didn't last long.  But theater is a shared experience.  And just like the candy wrappers, the cell phones and the running commentary some feel compelled to provide, walking out mid-performance is disruptive, selfish and just plain rude.

November 06, 2009

A reading and a delayed opening

AviActor-director Avi Hoffman, who's currently starring with Gordon McConnell in the world premiere of Seth Rozin's Two Jews Walk Into a War at Florida Stage, is using his usual Tuesday night off to (what else?) do some theater work.

Hoffman will be at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave. in Coral Gables, for another in City Theatre's series of free readings leading up to the company's 15th annual Summer Shorts Festival next June.

Among the short plays set to be read are Reality TV Reality TV by Christopher Demos Brown, Exchange by Elena Garcia and So It Goesby Andrew Rosendorf.  All are under consideration for the June 3-27 festival at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  For more info, call City at 305-755-9401 or visit the company's web site.


M Ensemble 2009-2010 Season The North Miami-based M Ensemble Company was supposed to have opened its production of August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean on Nov. 12.  But someone broke into the company's space at 12320 W. Dixie Hwy. and stole three air conditioners, setting back rehearsals for what is the first play (chronologically) in Wilson's 10-play Century Cycle about black life in Pittsburgh's Hill District. 

Now, M Ensemble is planning to open Gem of the Ocean on Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving, and run it through Dec. 20.  For more information, call the company at 305-899-2217 or visit the web site



November 04, 2009

Jump-starting the holidays

Lyra If you've been in almost any kind of store lately, you know that holiday decorations (which used to show up a few weeks before Thanksgiving) have been piled on shelves since way before Halloween.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a new show from Neil Goldberg and the folks that took Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy to Broadway, is bringing some early holiday cheer to Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino tonight through Sunday.

The family-oriented show, featuring a cast of aerialists, acrobats, singers, dancers and musicians, serves up everything from snowmen to toy soldiers to a 24-foot-tall "magical" Christmas tree.

Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday in the Hard Rock complex in Hollywood (just north of Stirling Road, off State Road 7/US 441).  Tickets are $35 to $65.  Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or visit the Ticketmaster web site.

November 03, 2009

On campus: Rand, Coward, Foote and Chekhov

Four productions opening this week bring the work of very different voices to South Florida educational stages.

South Broward High School alumnus Colin Healy and his band The Republik will play as students perform his new work Anthem: The Musical, based on the 1938 novella by Ayn Rand. The musical, about the loss of individuality in a repressive, futuristic society gets two performances at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Friday.  South Broward High is at 1901 N. Federal Hwy. in Hollywood.  Tickets are $5 in advance, $10 at the door. Call 754-323-1875 for tickets and information.

On Thursday, Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit brings its witty comedy to the stage of Florida International University's Wertheim Performing Arts Center, 10910 SW 117th St., Miami.  Michael Yawney directs the play about a man, his second wife and the ghost of wife No. 1, who inconveniently moves in with the couple after a séance.  Performances run through Nov. 15, with shows at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for students, seniors, faculty and staff, $12 for everyone else. For tickets, call 305-348-0496 or visit the FIU web site.

Talking pictures 003 On Friday, Florida Atlantic University opens its production of Horton Foote's Talking Pictures.  Danielle Bailey and Sam Sherburne are featured in the play about the residents of a rooming house, including a woman who makes her living playing piano at silent movies in the little town of Harrison, Texas, circa 1929. 

Performances of the work by the late Pulitzer Prize winner are in the Studio One Theatre on FAU's campus at 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 15 (additional matinee Nov. 14). Tickets are $15.  For information, call 1-800-564-9539 or visit the university's events  web site.

Chejov-11161In conjunction with the Miami Book Fair International, the Spanish-language Prometeo Theatre professional training program is presenting Chéjov vs. Chéjov, a sampling of Anton Chekhov's one-act plays with biographical anecdotes mixed in.  Jacqueline Briceño directs the production, which features Jimmy Garcia, Katia Pineda and other actors from Prometeo's program.

Performances are 8 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday in Prometeo's theater on Miami Dade College's Wolfson campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.  Tickets are $10.  The performances are in Spanish, but English supertitles are provided.  Call 305-237-3262 or visit Prometeo's web site.

November 02, 2009

Vintage Mamet, old and new

David Mamet, a playwright who still has no equal when it comes to ear-scorching male conversation, has a new play titled Race opening soon at Broadway's Barrymore Theatre (previews start Nov. 16, the opening happens Dec. 6, and James Spader, David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington and Richard Thomas are in the Mamet-directed cast).

Perversity But as of this weekend, you'll be able to see productions of two Mamet plays -- one from the start of his career more than 30 years ago, the other his recent reworking of a British play that debuted in 1905 -- at South Florida theaters.

Opening first, at 8 p.m. this Thursday, is Mamet's 1974 play Sexual Perversity in Chicago.  Jehane Serralles, David Sirois, Bertha Leal and Travis Reiff are in the Alliance Theatre Lab's production of a play about men and women -- and their lust, connection and contentiousness.  Adalberto Acevedo directs the show, which runs through Nov. 22 with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 9 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday.  Alliance performs at the Main Street Playhouse, 6766 Main St. in Miami Lakes. Tickets are $25 ($15 seniors, $10 students).  Call 305-259-0418 or visit the Alliance web site.

Voysey At Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company, artistic director Clive Cholerton has turned to Mamet's 2005 version of Harley Granville-Barker's The Voysey Inheritance, a 1905 play that (thanks to the activities of Bernard Madoff) seems as relevant as ever.

Previews begin Sunday at 2 p.m. for Voysey, which opens Nov. 13 and runs through Dec. 13.  In the play, about a wealthy family undone when a son discovers his father's long-running Ponzi scheme, are Terry Hardcastle, Peter Haig, Lourelene Snedeker, Stephen G. Anthony, Kathryn Lee Johnston, Jim Ballard, Katherine Amadeo, Cliff Burgess, Dennis Creaghan, Marta Reiman, John Felix and Dan Leonard.

After Sunday's matinee, performances are 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $34 to $55 ($10 for students).  Call 1-877-245-7432 or visit the Caldwell's web site for more information.