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9 posts from May 2010

May 27, 2010

Theater in the Gables

GableStage, Actors' Playhouse and New Theatre are the go-to professional theaters in arts-supportive Coral Gables, but two companies featuring young talent expand options for anyone who can't get enough theater.

The University of Miami's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre has just announced its 2010-2011 season, a terrific mix of classics and musicals both recent and vintage.  The lineup kicks off with the edgy satire Urinetown,about a totalitarian place in which access to bathroom facilities is strictly controlled, Sept. 29-Oct. 9.  Then comes Henrik Ibsen's endlessly fascinating Hedda Gabler  Nov. 10-20. Charles L. Mee's Big Love (a dazzling update of a tragedy by Aeschylus) runs Feb. 16-27, alternating with performances of  Aristophanes' Lysistrata Feb. 17-26. The season ends with the musical classic Carousel April 13-23.  Tickets are $16-$22 for week nights and matinees, $18-$25 Friday and Saturday.  UM faculty, staff, alumni and seniors 65 and older can get discounts, and subscribers can save 18 percent.  Call 305-284-3355 or visit the Ring web site for info.

Cabaret_postcard_frontNear the UM campus, Area Stage has extended the run of its hugely popular production of the John Kander-Fred Ebb musical Cabaret.  The large cast features students from Area's Theatre Conservatory:  Rebecca Admire, Marcos Alvarez, Ashley Arana, Alexandra Bacallao, Joseph Barbosa, Michael Barnette, Jorge Barranco, Sophie Carbonell, Marilyn Caserta, Sarah Crane, Stephanie Diggles, Katie Erwin, Manuel Jaquez, Kia Kessler, Ale Mesa, Ani Mesa, Sarah Pelaez, Mia Pennekamp, Caie Pires-Fernandes, Giancarlo Rodaz, Javier Romero, Roberto Sanchez, Diego Schaps, Ali Sousa and Natasha Zedan. The show's director, John Rodaz, and codirector, Maria Banda-Rodaz, are the couple behind Area Stage.

Performances are 8 p.m. tonight and Friday.  Tickets are $20 ($10 for students 25 and under).  Area is located at 1560 S. Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables.  Call 305-666-2078 or visit Area's web site for info. 

May 24, 2010

Lights to dim for a critic

Michael_Kuchwara Michael Kuchwara, the Associated Press drama critic for the past 26 years, died late Saturday at the age of 63.  Complications from a lung disease claimed his life, though he kept working until a few weeks ago, when his review of the Off-Broadway musical The Kid became the last of the hundreds -- actually, make that thousands -- he wrote.

Broadway will dim its lights in Kuchwara's memory for one minute at 7 p.m. Tuesday.  Theaters honoring a critic? Not so unusual, at least in this case:  Kuchwara, whose criticism was read all over the United States, was a smart, fair-minded writer.  Even Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Albee, generally no fan of critics, thought so, telling the AP:  "There's so little good in a theater predominantly involved with commerce and popularity as opposed to excellence, that the loss of an intelligent and perceptive critic like Michael Kuchwara is an especially sad note.''

I ran into Kuchwara a few times in the course of covering Broadway over the years. He was always warm, encouraging, interested in talking about theater.  He was a fine critic -- and a fine man.

May 21, 2010

Starry Broadway

It's a balmy spring in New York, and as the flowers pop up along Fifth Avenue, celebrities are turing out for Broadway shows in the run-up to the Tony Awards on June 13.  I'm in Manhattan seeing shows, doing interviews -- and, like every other Broadway-crazy tourist, doing some star-gazing.

The hot Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences (with Denzel Washington giving a powerful, charismatic performance as a flawed husband and father), has been open since April 26.  But Washington's star power and the show's limited run are drawing star-filled sellout crowds to the Cort Theatre.  At Wednesday night's performance, everyone got a crazy mini-opening night experience.  Jorge Garcia of Lost and Matthew Morrison of Glee occupied aisle seats, as did rocker-actor Lenny Kravitz and daughter Zoe. Just before showtime, the crowd started screaming, turning into cell phone paparazzi. First, music legend Aretha Franklin arrived.  Then things got even crazier as Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett-Smith(accompanied by XXXL-sized bodyguards) showed up. That the Tony-nominated Washington, costar Viola Davisand the rest of a superb cast could still deliver an electric performance of Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play -- and to a largely silent, rapt crowd -- was a miracle.  I've been to several celeb-packed Broadway opening nights, but I've never experienced anything like Wednesday night at Fences.

Thursday was a little less celebrity-intensive, but not by much.  I had lunch with Raul Esparza and Lucie Arnaz, to chat about Babalu, the show celebrating the music of Lucie's dad, TV legend Desi Arnaz.  It comes to Miami's Arsht Center in July.  Later, I interviewed Miamians (and best pals) Katie Finneran (Tony-nominated for Promises, Promises) and Andrea Burns (still in the Tony-winning Broadway smash In the Heights).

Walking to the John Golden Theater to see John Logan's Tony-nominated play Red (with Alfred Molina giving an intense, dazzling performance as artist Mark Rothko), I passed Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon and her education-activist partner, Christine Marinoni. At Red, Jason Sudeikis of Saturday Night Live slid into the row in front of me.  Then I went over to a party celebrating the Tony-nominated show Fela! (which I'm seeing tonight), and after a bit, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jay-Z and Beyonce showed up.  Dance legend Bill T. Jones, Tony-nominated as best director and choreographer for Fela!, was there too.  But the out-of-town Tony voters who were guests at the party mostly stood around gawking as the super celebs (again protected by XXXL bodyguards) chatted with each other.

Now I'm headed out to the annual Drama League luncheon, to which Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Nathan Lane, Christopher Walken -- and, well, a few dozen other bold-faced names are invited. If they all show up, I may go into a celebrity coma.


May 14, 2010

Outdoors 'Oleanna'

O1 Pinecrest Repertory Theatre has been dormant for a couple of years -- money troubles, no surprise during the recession -- but the company is back this weekend with a production of David Mamet's Oleanna.

Mamet's still-controversial 1992 play, about a professor up for tenure and the student whose accusations help derail his future, stars Greg Schroeder as John and Bertha Leal as Carol.  Pinecret Rep founder and artistic director Max Pearl is staging the play in the company's lush home at Pinecrest Gardens' Banyan Bowl.

Plans are in the works to turn the 550-seat domed amphitheater at the former home of Parrot Jungle into an enclosed performing arts center, with Pine Crest Rep as its resident theater company.  But you can see what the group has to offer at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through June 6.  Banyan Bowl is at 11000 SW Red Rd. in Miami.  Tickets are a bargain-priced $15 ($12 for students, seniors and military personnel). For info, call 305-378-8239, email pinecrestrep@yahoo.com or visit the company's web site.

May 10, 2010

Remembering, reading

Carol_A__Provon-0357_35419[1] Two quick bits of very different theater-related information

Actor and director Carol A. Provonsha, who lost her long battle with cancer on March 27, will be remembered at a theatrically-styled celebration of her life at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 17, at the Historic Arcade Theatre in Fort Myers' River District. 

Provonsha, who spent much of her working life in South Florida before moving to Florida's west coast and an association with Florida Repertory Theatre, asked that anyone wishing to speak do so as an "audition" -- one to two minutes of conversation, or 16 bars of a song.  For information, call Florida Rep at 239-332-4488 or visit the company's web site.  Anyone wishing to speak or sing at the memorial should e-mail the company's costume designer, Roberta Malcolm, at costumes@floridarep.org.


Tonight at 7 brings the season's final Play Monday session in the Arts at St. John's program.  Short, original plays about Miami Beach get a free reading at 4760 Pine Tree Dr., Miami Beach.  For info, call Barbara Fox at 305-864-2430 or send an email to bfwriter@aol.com.

May 07, 2010

Ground Up settling down

Arturo Headshot Great news from Ground Up & Rising, that edgy young theater company that has wandered from space to space during its existence: It finally has a home.

Artistic director Arturo Fernandez said Friday that the company will begin sharing Miami Beach's Little Stage Theater space with the SoBe Institute of the Arts beginning in June.  Ground Up will do 12-performance, three-weekend runs of its productions, starting with Martin McDonagh's The PillowmanJune 11-27.  Arnaldo Carmouze, Bechir Sylvain, Sheaun McKinney, Jennifer Lorenzo and Nick Duckart have already been cast in the show.

After that, Ground Up will do Liz Flahive's Up From Here and one other show.  And Fernandez is already putting together the following season for the cozy black-box venue at 2100 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.

The actor-director-playwright is also jazzed about the company's short feature film Observe, about a decorated Iraq War veteran who finds much more conflict after he comes home.  Featuring Fernandez, Sylvain, McKinney, Lela Elam and George Schiavone, the movie is being screened during the Cannes Film Festival May 12-21.

As an actor, Fernandez has a role in the not-yet-released feature film Loving the Bad Man(fellow South Florida actors David Hemphill and Kim Ostrenko are in it too), and he has a recurring role as a drug dealer named Sugar on USA Network's made-in-Miami Burn Notice.

Finally having a home and being able to build an audience, Fernandez says, is "a huge moment for us."

For more on the company and its future, email info@groundupandrising.org or visit the group's web site.

May 06, 2010

Caldwell reveals a powerhouse summer

Gordon McConnellBoca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company, which offered a distinctly non-frothy summer lineup last year with the world premiere of Vices: A Love Story and The Whipping Man, is planning more meaty fare starring two strong actors for its upcoming summer season.

Carbonell Award-winning actor Gordon McConnell (pictured here in Mosaic Theatre's Wrecks) will star in the southeastern premiere of Bob Clyman's comedy thriller Secret Order.  McConnell plays the famous administrator of a New York research lab where a brilliant young scientist claims to have discovered a cure for cancer.Secret Order will run July 7 to Aug.1 and will be directed by Tom Bloom, who has been involved with the script through its developmental process.

Cuccioli Broadway veteran Robert Cuccioli, who got a Tony Award nomination for his title performance in the musical Jekyll & Hyde, will star in the Caldwell's world premiere of Joel Gross' The Comfort of Darkness, to be directed by artistic director Clive Cholerton.  The play is described as a "slightly fictionalized" version of the story of Dr. Anton Mesmer, whose theories led to the development of hypnotism -- and to the word "mesmerizing."  Gross' drama is a love story centering around Mesmer's treatment of the young blind pianist Maria Theresa von Paradis.  It will play Aug. 11 to Sept. 5.

The Caldwell's summer shows play at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $38 and $45 (students $10), and the theater is located at 7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton.  Call 1-877-245-7432 or visit the Caldwell web site for info.

May 05, 2010

'Miranda Sings' and more

606578983_miranda-1286-1 YouTube sensation Miranda Sings, aka Colleen Ballinger, is headed for South Florida in all her purposefully awful glory.  Ballinger's character is a deliberately terrible singer-performer who croons off-key and gives dramatic readings of her hate mail.  The YouTube creation has evolved into a cabaret act, one that Ballinger will bring to Coral Gables' Area Stage for one night only at 8 p.m. this Friday.

Aaron Simon Gross, who was in the Broadway cast of the musical 13, will introduce "Miranda," and during the course of her show she'll give singing lessons to the cast of Area Stage Conservatory's upcoming production of Cabaret -- which should be excruciating or hilarious, depending on your point of view.

Tickets are $25 and $35, $50 for a premium seat and backstage pass.  Area is at 1560 S. Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables.  Call 305-666-2078 or visit the Area web site for info.


Maggie Gomez You can help a girl get to Broadway -- and no, we don't mean Miranda Sings.  Actor-comedian-DJ Maggie Gomez is a finalist in a contest called Be Sensational and Win.  The prize: Appearing in the Broadway production of Chicago for a performance as a member of the bad-girl Cell Block Six. Watch Gomez (who is listed as Maggie Carminda G.) and five other finalists at www.besensationalandwin.com.  Vote by Friday, and you'll be entered into a sweepstakes for a trip to New York and tickets to Chicago.

May 03, 2010

What's new? 'PussyCat'

Stp_pussycat The State Theatre Project has cut its teeth thus far on ripped-from-the-headlines short plays performed on otherwise dark theater nights at GableStage.

Now, the new company moves to a different venue and a different kind of theater with PussyCat on a Pedestal, a play by STP producing artistic director David Hemphill and Justin McLendon. It's performed by them too, and directed by David Sirois.

The play, say the authors, is about lost love from a guy's perspective.

The show happens at 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday upstairs at Flavor, a bar and lounge located at 2895 McFarlane Rd. in Coconut Grove.

Tickets are $15 (students with ID pay $10).  Call 706-284-5819 for info.