April 03, 2013

Slow Burn heats up in Aventura

Sweeney3EPatrick Fitzwater and Matthew Korinko, the founders and co-artistic directors of Slow Burn Theatre, have taken a slow and steady approach to growing their company since launching it in early 2010 with the musical Bat Boy.  Slow Burn performs at the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre, a huge venue that happens to be the theater at West Boca Raton Community High School.  Yet unlike their savvy business plan, the quality of the theater art that the duo produces has grown at warp speed. 

In rehearsal for their April 12-21 of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd(their third Sondheim, after 2010's Assassinsand 2012's Into the Woods), Fitzwater and Korinko are unveiling their first expansion plans.  Next season, two of their productions will open in West Boca, then play the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center.

"Jeff Kiltie [event services manager] from the Aventura center came to see our production of Xanadu, then came back this fall to see Avenue Q," Fitzwater said Wednesday.  "He said he thought the quality was fabulous...so we've been in talks for a couple of months about how moving shows would help us and how it would help them."

PatrickMHSNext season, Slow Burn will produce four musicals:  Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal, which premiered regionally at Coral Gables' Actors' Playhouse in 2012;  Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry's Parade; Chess, the musical by ABBA guys Bennie Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, with lyrics by Tim Rice; and High Fidelity, a musical by Kitt, Amanda Green and David Lindsay-Abaire, based more on the Nick Hornby novel than the hit movie.  Next to Normalwill kick off the Aventura partnership Nov. 7-10, with Chess traveling to Aventura April 10-13.

Fitzwater directs and choreographs Slow Burn shows, which have often starred Korinko.  The latter on Monday shared the best ensemble Carbonell Award for his work in Neil Simon's Rumors at Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs.  The risk-taking Slow Burn hasn't been eligible for South Florida theater's highest honor so far.  That's not because of the quality of the company's work (the region's critics have been and continue to be impressed) but because the founding duo's fiscally conservative strategy means their shows don't run long enough to be given consideration. With the additional Aventura performances, that may change, at least for Next to Normal and Chess.

Fitzwater said he chose the two shows for the 326-seat Aventura venue because (no surprise) they made sense financially or commercially.

"Next to Normal has a small cast and a unit set," he said.  "And with Chess, we can fall back on the ABBA connection."

Tickets to Next to Normal at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St., Aventura, go on sale April 12 and are priced at $34.50 and $39.50.  For info, call 877-311-7469 or visit the center's site.

If you don't want to wait to see what the Slow Burn buzz is all about, check out Sweeney Toddat the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre, 12811 W. Glades Rd., Boca Raton.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday April 12-21. Tickets are $35 ($30 for seniors, $20 for students). For information, call 866-811-4111 or visit the Slow Burn web site.

(Photo of Matthew Korinko and Karen Chandler in Sweeney Todd by Gemma Louise Bramham; smaller photo shows Patrick Fitzwater)

 

March 30, 2013

Last chance to catch 'Broadway Unplugged'

Andy SenorIf you love the songs of Broadway delivered by actors who were meant to sing them, you'll want to catch tonight's final performance of Broadway Unplugged.  The show is a project of The District Stage Company, a group founded by artistic director Andy Señor Jr. and other Miami talents.

 Señor, who made his professional debut playing Angel in Rent, performed the role on Broadway and in London, Asia, Los Angeles and in the U.S. national tour.  Of the dream behind District Stage, he said in a statement, "I have developed such rich relationships in the Broadway community over many years, and I'm excited to create events in Miami that feature Broadway talent and turn up the heat in the South Florida theater scene."

Broadway Unplugged has two shows Saturday evening, at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. in the intimate black box theater at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211th St., Cutler Bay.

On the bill with Señor, who will sing Sarah from The Civil War, are Rebecca Naomi Jones (American Idiot and Passing Strange), Adam Chanler-Berat (Peter and the Starcatcher and Next to Normal), Matt Caplan (Rent, South Pacific and Spider-Man), Janet Dacal (In the Heights and Wonderland) and singer-songwriter Matt Nakoa.  Jared Stein is musical director of the rich, hot program.

Rebecca Naomi JonesSome of the  other numbers you'll hear tonight if you make the trek to Cutler Bay: Jones singing Murder Ballad from the Off-Broadway show of the same title; Chanler-Berat singing Smash; Dacal, who did several performances as Nina in the current Actors' Playhouse production of In the Heights when Sarah Amengual was out sick, singing songs from that show; Caplan performing This Nearly Was Mine from South Pacific; Caplan and Nakoa singing original songs.  And the cast will perform group numbers from Rent, Spring Awakening and American Idiot.

Tickets are $30, and you can get them by calling 786-573-5300 or visiting the SMDCAC web site.

March 29, 2013

Sánchez to receive Abbott Award at Carbonells

05-MarioSanchez-7711Each year at the Carbonell Awards, someone is honored for his or her long-term, significant contributions to the arts in South Florida.  At the 37th annual Carbonell ceremony on Monday, the evening's highest honor -- the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts -- will be presented to Mario Ernesto Sánchez.

The founder of Miami's Teatro Avante came to the United States from Cuba on a Pedro Pan flight when he was 15.  After launching his Spanish-language company in 1979, Sánchez took on a large-scale annual challenge in 1985:  the International Hispanic Theatre Festival.  In July, he'll oversee the 28th edition of the festival at in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and Teatro Prometeo.

Sánchez, who pays most of his bills with a busy career as a film and TV actor, has been hugely influential in elevating Spanish-language theater in South Florida.  The festival showcases adventurous, important productions from the Spanish-speaking world and beyond, and Teatro Avante has represented Miami at festivals around the world.   Sánchez has emphasized inclusion by presenting his shows with English supertitles and sometimes choosing productions that are more movement-driven than language-based.

Serious Spanish-language theater in South Florida is on the rise -- and Sánchez's festival, company and unwavering passion for his art form have plenty to do with that.

CarbonellAlso being honored during the Carbonell ceremony, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, is Actors' Equity Association.  In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the actors' union will receive the Ruth Foreman Award, named for the late South Florida theater pioneer.

A trio of students from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties will receive $1,000 Carbonell scholarships to pursue education in theater or journalism.  This year's honorees are Sammi-Jack Martincak of the New World School of the Arts, Christian Frost of J.P. Taravella High School and Jade Zaroff of West Boca Community High School.

The Carbonell ceremony isn't just a one-after-the-other awards presentation, of course.  It's also an impressive show that highlights nominated musicals and plays from 2012.  This year's show and ceremony has been put together by two Zoetic Stage founders who just happen to be nominees themselves:  producer Michael McKeever, whose play Moscow is up for best new work and who got a scenic design nomination for his I Am My Own Wifeset; and director Stuart Meltzer, whose direction of Zoetic's I Am My Own Wife earned him a nomination.

IMG_quartet_3_1_O3593M2TUnder the musical direction of Caryl Fantel, the show will feature five performances by actors nominated for their work in musicals.  Vicki Lewis will sing Before the Parade Passes By fromthe Maltz Jupiter Theatre's Hello, Dolly!.  Former Miss America Kate Shindle will perform the title song from the Maltz's Cabaret.  Jodie Langel will sing I Miss the Mountains, one of her numbers in the Actors' Playhouse production of Next to Normal.  Matt Loehr, a double nominee for the Maltz's Hello, Dolly! and The Music Man, will sing Ya Got Troublefrom the latter.  And Wayne LeGette will perform The Stock Exchange Song from the Theatre at Arts Garage's production of Cabaret Verboten.

This year for the first time the Carbonell organization will be tweeting out the names of winners.  Follow those dramatic developments @CarbonellAwards.

Anyone can attend the show and ceremony, and there are still some tickets remaining.  They're $25 in advance, $35 at the door.  For tickets or information, call 954-462-0222 or visit the Broward Center web site.

(Photos show Mario Ernesto Sánchez, the Carbonell Award and the cast of Cabaret Verboten, with Wayne LeGette second from top.)

 

 

March 26, 2013

Lin-Manuel Miranda to check out 'Heights' at Actors' Playhouse

Creator00 heights wknd JMActors' Playhouse in Coral Gables has scored a major hit with its production of the Tony Award-winning In the Heights.  There has been offstage drama too, with an ailing Sarah Amengual replaced for several performances byJanet Dacal, the actress who created the role of beautician Carla in the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions of the show.  Dacal gives her final performance as Stanford dropout Nina (a role she also played on Broadway) at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Now comes more big news:  In the audience for the final performance of In the Heights at 2 p.m. April 7 will be the guy who dreamed up the show when he was still a college student.  Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony Predictions NYET173who originated the role of the show's lovelorn hip-hop narrator Usnavi, is coming to Miami to watch the Actors' cast (including Nick Duckart as Usnavi) close out their successful run of a joyous show that has been compared to a Latino Fiddler on the Roof.  The actor-playwright will also be the guest of honor that evening at the theater's 25th Anniversary Gala Bash, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at the InterContinental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza.  Entertainment, silent and live auctions (with celebrity auctioneer Roxanne Vargas of WTVJ-NBC6), drinks, dinner and dancing are all part of the Heights-themed evening, with tickets starting at $500 and going way, way up for tables.

There's still time, though, to catch the last few performances of In the Heights at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.  Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $50 Friday-Saturday, $42 for other shows (seniors get a 10 percent discount, students can get $15 rush tickets, Saturday-Sunday excluded).  Call 305-444-9293 or visit the Actors' web site for more info.

(Photos of Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Broadway production of In the Heights by Joan Marcus)

 

South Florida Theatre League has a racy proposition

Bed_Concept2 copyThe South Florida Theatre League wants you...to get in bed with the arts.

The umbrella organization for theaters from Miami to Jupiter has come up with a novel campaign to ratchet up awareness of the region's theatrical riches.  Bombshell Productions is building a bed on wheels that will travel from theater to theater during the annual WLRN Summer Theatre Fest June 1-Aug. 31, stopping at different theaters before Thursday performances.  Its final destination: the Coconut Grove Bed Race on Labor Day Weekend.

The League intends to do interviews with curious theater fans, asking them about what theater and the arts mean to them.  The fans can pose for photos beside the bed or, if they're adventurous, on it.  Interviews and photos will be posted on the League's web site.

CarbonellThe bed will make an early debut on Monday before the 37th annual Carbonell Awards -- or "Theater Prom," as the glammed-up theater folks call it -- outside the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  The ceremony-show starts at 7:30 p.m., and afterwards, the bed will lead the way to the League-sponsored after party.

The full schedule of when and where the bed will appear will be released soon.  But expect it to turn up outside theaters with family-friendly fare (Slava's Snowshow at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts July 31-Aug. 25, Wind in the Willows at Sol Children's Theatre Aug. 9-25) as well as theaters with plays whose titles invite an adults-only audience (Cock at GableStage May 18-June 16, and a Mad Cat world premiere of a play about Isabella Blow Aug. 15-Sept. 1).

 

(Rendering of bed by Bombshell Productions; Carbonell Award statue designed by Manuel Carbonell) 

 

March 23, 2013

Janet Dacal steps into the 'Heights'

The show must go on, and at Actors' Playhouse, the solution when leading lady Sarah Amengual got sick was a dramatic one: fly in Broadway actress Janet Dacal to play Nina in the theater's current hit production of In the Heights.

Dacal, who appeared in The Last Five Years at Actors' this season, has a long history with the Tony Award-winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes.  She originated the part of beauty shop employee Carla in the show's Off-Broadway and Broadway productions, and then moved into the role of Nina, the bright young woman who comes back from Stanford University to her vibrant northern Manhattan neighborhood with a secret.

Dacal rehearsed with the Actors' cast all day Saturday and did her first performance Saturday evening.  She'll also play Nina at 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Wednesday.  A Florida International University grad, Dacal is working with a much-praised cast of South Florida actors and performers who have done In the Heights on Broadway and on tour.

Tickets to the show are $42 ($50 on Friday-Saturday), with 10 percent discounts for seniors and $15 student rush tickets except Saturday-Sunday.  Actors' Playhouse performs at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.  For information, call 305-444-9293 or visit the theater's web site.

 

March 15, 2013

Kids and the Colony...and the Carbonells

IMG_1820 (2)Miami Childrens Theater has found a swanky professional venue for its theater summer camp:  the Colony Theater on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road.  The ambitious, very active MCT will hold its camp there from July 15 to Aug. 10, operating from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, but potential campers and their parents can get a preview this Sunday during an open house from 3 to 7 p.m.

Tuition for the camp is $1,500, but some full and partial scholarships are available by audition.  South Florida actress and director Christine Vega is leading the camp program for MCT, and she'll direct the production that will be the culmination of all that the students learn:  Disney's Beauty and the Beast, running Aug. 9-10.

ChristineYou don't need to wait until the summer, though, to see what MCT's young performers can do.  The company is winding up its run of Gypsy at 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday at the Alper JCC, 11155 SW 112th St., Miami, with tickets priced at $15.  MCT is also doing Jason Robert Brown's Songs for a New World at the Alper April 4-7, and Disney's The Little Mermaid at Pinecrest Gardens April 26-28. 

For information on the company or its camp at the Colony, call 305-274-3595 or visit the MCT web site.

***

The 37th annual Carbonell Awards, a.k.a. South Florida's "theater prom," are set for Monday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Nominees, a wide range of theater artists, company heads and the public are all invited, and tickets are now on sale.  Those tickets are $25 ($35 the day of the ceremony), with discounts for groups of 10 or more.

CarbonellPlaywright Michael McKeever and director Stuart Meltzer are putting together the show, which will feature performances from nominated musicals -- and much more.

The Broward Center is at 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. To order tickets, call 954-462-0222 or visit the Broward Center web site.

(Photos show an MCT performer, Christine Vega and the Carbonell Award, designed by sculptor Manuel Carbonell)

 

March 12, 2013

'Rising Stars' celebrates tomorrow's artists

NWSA Rising Stars_Theater_Cabaret OpeningMiami's New World School of the Arts has immeasurably enriched the theater, music, visual arts and dance communities in South Florida and around the country.  On Friday, you can experience the next wave of students poised to make an artistic impact when New World presents its annual Rising Stars Showcase at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.

The celebration begins from 5 to 7:30 p.m. with a free visual arts exhibition in the New World Gallery at 25 NE Second St., Miami.  A pre-performance VIP reception, priced from $125-$250, happens at the Gusman Center, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.  Call 305-237-3753 or email rmaldona@mdc.edu for information.

NWSA Rising Stars_Music_Luna RamosThe performance begins at 8 p.m. with a number from the Tony Award-winning musical Cabaret, directed by theater dean Patrice Bailey, and high school musical theater students will perform a segment from Wonderful Town.  Dance students will perform the Gerard Ebitz-choreographed Tuxedo Park (Excerpt) and Peter London's reconstruction of Martha Graham's 1974 Adorations.  Alfred Gershfeld will lead the New World Symphony Orchestra in an excerpt from Dvorak's Symphony No. 8in G, and Jim Gasior leads the New World Jazz Band in Duke Ellington's Second Line.

Also during the performance, painter and 2005 New World grad Michael Vasquez will receive this year's Rising Stars Alumnus Award from his former dean, Maggy Cuesta. 

Tickets to Rising Stars are $20-$50.  For information, visit the New World web site or Gusman site.

(Photo of Cabaret features Cristian Vandepas and Alexis Adler; violinist Luna Ramos is featured in the symphony photo)

March 04, 2013

Nan Barnett to head National New Play Network

Nan Barnett newNan Barnett, the theater professional whose business savvy helped grow Florida Stage from a college-based professional company to the country's largest regional theater devoted to new plays, has just been named the new executive director of the National New Play Network (NNPN).

 Barnett has spent this season as executive director of Actors Express in Atlanta, an NNPN member company celebrating its 25th anniversary season.  But she built her career as an actor and administrator alongside Florida Stage artistic director Louis Tyrrell until the acclaimed company, which was based in Manalapan for most of its 24 years, ceased operations in 2011 due to the bruising recession and a loss of support after a move to West Palm Beach.

Florida Stage was a NNPN member theater, and Barnett led the organization's board while she was managing director of the company.  Miami's New Theatre, Sarasota's Florida Studio Theatre and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater are also members, and Miami's Zoetic Stage is an associate member. 

"You don't get two dream jobs in a lifetime, but I think I might have," Barnett said Monday from her Atlanta office.  "NNPN has taken ideas that were floating around the field and tried them, moved them forward...Several of our programs are being replicated in other organizations, which is flattering."

Barnett said that among the NNPN initiatives with great potential are the New Play Exchange, a database of new works that should help plays come to the attention of more theaters, and NNPN associate memberships.

Founded in 1998, the NNPN began an innovative "rolling world premiere" program, in which several members theaters agree to produce a new play in the same season, giving the playwright more national exposure and the chance to continue developing a script as he or she sees what different actors and directors bring to the work.

Barnett, who earned her bachelor of fine arts degree from the North Carolina School of the Arts Professional Training Program, will start her new job in May. She and her actor-husband Gordon McConnell plan to keep their home in Florida, but she notes that the timing is right for a move:  Their son Hunter goes off to college in the fall.

She succeeds Jason Loewith, who is leaving NNPN to become artistic director of Maryland's Olney Theatre Center.  NNPN is based at Washington D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre.  For more information on NNPN, visit the organization's web site.

February 19, 2013

City Theatre picks its Summer Shorts company

Irene Adjen (Emily) and Todd Durkin (David) in Green Dot Day - photo credit Rodrigo Gaya, WORLD RED EYEBlink and it will be summer, so it's no surprise that City Theatre has put most of the pieces of its 18th annual Summer Shorts festival together.  Artistic director John Manzelli has just revealed the six performers who will make up the must-be-versatile acting company, and it's a good one.  Back again are Irene Adjan and Todd Allen Durkin, two standouts from last year's troupe.  They're joined by Ken Clement, Renata Eastlick, Rayner G. Garranchan and Vera Varlamov.  Long-time festival fans will note that Stephen Trovillion, aka "Mr. Summer Shorts," isn't in the company this year, though he has appeared in nearly every festival so far.

"I think change is a good thing sometimes," Manzelli says.  "I'm sure Steve will be back.  I've wanted to work with Ken for a long time, and I'm excited to bring Irene and Todd back."

Manzelli will be sharing most of the directing duties for the festival, which will run June 6-30 in the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, with Margaret M. Ledford.  Mcley LaFrance will direct one of the short plays, and another guest director will stage one play.

The lineup of plays and playwrights is coming soon.  But Manzelli says that the Arsht program, while presented as a single production, will have an intermission separating six plays dubbed Program A, six in Program B.  The annual CityWrights playwrights' weekend will return too, with the program to be announced shortly.

The Miami lineup won't travel to Broward. Instead, City Theatre will coproduce a four-week short-play program with Island City Stage in August.  That program will focus heavily on work by South Florida playwrights, Manzelli says.

Also on the horizon is a January-February Florida tour for Dr. Wonderful, the company's musical for family audiences.  And Manzelli is working toward a regional/national tour of Summer Shorts next season.

For more information, call the Arsht Center box office at 305-949-6722, visit the Arsht web site or visit City Theatre's web site.

(Photo of Irene Adjan and Todd Allen Durkin by Rodrigo Gaya of World Red Eye.)