Theater

The Glass Menagerie (review)

The Glass Menagerie (review)

THE PLAY: This Tennessee Williams classic is about a domineering Southern mother, her restless poet son and the daughter with a mild “affliction.”

 

THE PRODUCTION: As stated in the opening monologue, this play is a dimly-lit, sentimental, memory play. As staged by director Morrie Piersol, this production doesn’t capture that sentimental mystique. Departing a bit from Amanda’s traditionally-played pitiful style, Lian-Marie Holmes creates a character with more pluck than woe. Matt Bloch’s son manages some humor in his observations, which also ameliorates some of the play’s potential misery. Louise Keeton’s daughter has an almost continual expression of hangdog misery. (With mom and brother steeped in Southern, where is the daughter’s accent?) Rounding out the cast is Cooper Sved, whose Gentleman Caller brings smiling charm and energy. Many of the tech elements are lackluster and/or distracting. The design concept by Tennessee Dixon wasn’t ably realized by the set’s shoddy construction. Even though the projections are called for in the script, they don’t add value and become almost comical in their comments. The random undermixed music (written by Jonathan Beard) didn’t achieve its affect and the slow light fades were rendered graceless by the jittery low-budget LEDs. Side lighting can be dramatic, but this time, Michael Jarett’s design causes more face shadows than drama. Running time: 2:05

 

THE POINT: While the show is quietly affecting, it lacks the poetic style that can make the play so moving.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

A 5th Wall Production at The Basement thru 2/8

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Lian-Marie Holmes, Matt Bloch, Louise Keeton (Photos by Tom Topinka)

Theatrical yard sale

Theatrical yard sale

The McAuley/Kilgore Library is named for the founders of Barksdale Theatre and is housed adjacent to the lobby of Virginia Rep’s Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn. It houses hundreds of scripts and theatre resource books.

 

Several years ago, local actor Jody Strickler became interested in organizing this growing collection, so she enlisted fellow actors Jacqueline Jones and Linda Snyder to help. Since people keep donating books, they’re running out of space.

 

Hence, the YARD SALE (actually in the 2nd floor lobby).

SATURDAY, JANUARY 11, 2-4pm

 

They kept one copy of every play (2 for Shakespeare) and the remainders will be for sale:

Paperbacks: 50 cents for one script / 3 for $1.

Hardbacks: $1 each or 5 for $3.

In addition, there will be props, periodicals, sound equipment and other odds and ends. Va Rep costumer Sue Griffin is also donating some of her personal stock of fabric.

 

All proceeds go to the Library Committee for resources that will allow them to make the collection available to the theatre community. Cash and check preferred, but they can take credit cards and anything left over will be given to Diversity Thrift.

 

Here’s a look inside the library:

 

 

The Wild Women of Winedale (review)

The Wild Women of Winedale (review)

THE PLAY: Two sisters and their sister-in-law face major changes in their lives. This is amplified by asides featuring other women addressing turning points in their lives.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This script is written by the team that’s created several popular local shows, including The Dixie Swim Club and Doublewide, Texas. This one takes place in Virginia, but is not as packed with easy punch lines as some of their more successful work. It still features a small cast of appealing women, lots of age jokes and the inevitable silly costume moment (the rest of Jen Krisch’s clothes are colorful, attractive and character-appropriate). This trio does a pleasant job mining the most out of the somewhat ordinary situations and mildly interesting characters. A 4th actor (Kathy Northrop Parker) nimbly creates an entertaining variety of “interview” characters that are interspersed throughout the show. Director Amy Berlin keeps things moving and amps the comedy, while not letting the “sweet” moments go very deep. Joe Bly’s set is an acceptable living room. Running time: 2:00

 

THE POINT: Women “of a certain age” will find plenty of good-natured humor to relate to, but this lively production is slight on genuine comedy.

 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

 

At CAT thru 12/21

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Photos by DaryllMorganStudios

In Love We Trust (review)

In Love We Trust (review)

THE PLAY: This isn’t a play or even a musical revue. Just 4 people singing popular songs.

 

THE PRODUCTION: There’s no real narrative or substantial patter, just a combination of popular songs around the theme of love. The foursome has pleasant voices, delivering the songs in a neutral style. The only number with a touch of emotion was Robyn O’Neill’s rendition of “Alfie.” The staging is loose with the singers wandering about the open space (in addition to the traditional risers, there’s seating on stage). They were singing into mics, but the voices sometimes didn’t cut thru in the PA system. It didn’t really matter, since the space is so intimate and they were usually strong enough to be heard. Surprisingly, Musical Director Anthony Williams didn’t rework any of the arrangements for a fresh approach, but his work on the keyboard was the highlight of the 3-piece band. Running time: 1:10 (no intermission)

 

THE POINT: This is a pleasant, casual evening of song. A little creativity in the presentation or arrangements would have made the experience more special.

 

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

At HATTheatre thru 12/14

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Always…Patsy Cline (review)

Always…Patsy Cline (review)

THE PLAY: A mega fan of legendary country singer Patsy Cline relates the true story of their friendship, framed by the singer’s songs.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Debra Wagoner is one of our great songbirds and this is a wonderful opportunity to highlight her skills. Like the style of Cline, there’s no showboating with the songs, just solid, strong, beautiful singing. As a good ole girl and Cline’s uber fan, Terri Moore steals the show. She enjoyably interacts with the audience, as narrates her story with comic charm and loads of personality. Director Joe Pabst has kept the staging focused on the songs, while encouraging the sweet friendship that develops. (Sit on the left side of the theatre for the best views of Wagoner’s work.) The 5-piece band under Jeff Lindquist’s direction provides tight backup, and thanks to Derek Dumais, the sound mix is perfect. The simple set by Terrie Powers is split between a honky tonk nook on one side and a revolving platform that does triple duty on the other. Skyler Broughman’s lights and Marcia Miller Hailey’s costumes make attractive additions. Running time: 2:00

 

THE POINT: A sheer country delight and a dang good time!

 

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

 

A Virginia Rep production at Hanover Tavern thru 1/5/20

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Debra Wagoner as Patsy Cline. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

Cinderella (review)

Cinderella (review)

THE PLAY: The classic fairy tale gets a major rework, while keeping the songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This production’s most enjoyable elements are:

1. The revised book, which is a departure from the original with lots of spunky contemporary dialogue and new plot points (some of them political).

2. Matthew Couvillon’s fresh, jaunty choreography.

3. Audra Honaker’s comical turn as the most wicked step sister.

Other than that, much of the show falls short. In the titular role, Quynh-My Luu is lovely. As her prince, Edward L. Simon is pleasant. Both of them are fine, but not magnetic personalities. While the show features an energetic ensemble with acceptable voices, the whole production never gels. Much of that lies with Laine Satterfield’s direction, which works well with the comedy, but lacks that special spark in style or guidance. Anthony Smith’s orchestra is fine, although the synth strings weren’t. The set by Brian Barker and the costumes by Jeanne Nugent were both attractive, but never beautiful. BJ Wilkinson’s lights added lots of pink. Running time: 2:10

 

THE POINT: This revised version of the classic features some enjoyable elements (especially for kids), but lacks that magic touch to make it wondrous.

 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

 

At Virginia Rep thru 1/5

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (review)

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (review)

THE PLAY: Based on Dickens’ unfinished novel of the same name, this musical exploration of a murder takes place in a Victorian musical hall.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Since the original story was never completed, this play considers how it might have ended. There’s even an interactive angle, letting the audience vote on the outcome. The production starts with a rousing opening number, featuring a large, rambunctious cast. Most of the singers are strong and the performances are enjoyable. There’s a touch of period style, but the exaggerated reactions from some of the performers elevates the fun (esp. Michael Gray who most effectively showcases the embellished flourishes and Kenneth Putnam who provides the comic highlights). Considering the plot is pretty basic, it’s still not always clear what’s happening. Tom Width’s direction focuses more on the style than story, but he didn’t take the exaggerated approach far enough to create delightful flair. Under the direction of Gabrielle Maes, the band provides solid backing and Alissa Pagnotti’s choreography is adequate. Width designed an attractive musical hall proscenium, bolstered by Joe Doran footlights. Maura Lynch Cravey’s costumes are appropriate (the dark roots under Paige Reisenfeld’s blonde wig should be remedied). Running time: 2:30

 

THE POINT: The exuberant actors make the show fun, but this period parody feels like it’s for those who appreciate theatrical tropes, rather than audiences expecting the easy escape of a traditional musical.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

At Swift Creek Mill Theatre thru 12/28

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Urinetown (review)

Urinetown (review)

THE PLAY: The world’s ecology has been devastated and people must pay to use the bathrooms, which are controlled by an evil corporation.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This is the 4th time I’ve seen this show (Broadway & 2 locals) and this is the 1st time I’ve actually enjoyed it…immensely. I can’t remember when I’ve laughed this much. This cast boasts many of our community’s top talents at the top of their skills with shamelessly over-the-top performances and perfectly precise comic inventiveness. While everyone is wonderful, Bianca Bryan’s malevolent narrator, Matt Shofner’s underplayed hero and Kelsey Cordrey’s sweetly hilarious Little Sally grab extra attention. The singing is great (under the leadership of Jason Marks), while music director Travis West guides his tight band perfectly (he and several other band members are also in the cast). “Don’t Be the Bunny” was the show’s hilarious highlight (framed with Allison Paige Gilman’s delightfully desperate reactions). After Matt Polson’s skills with TUCK EVERLASTING (my review), it’s obvious that he’s a major new directorial force in town. His twisted interpretation of an already twisted play and assured guidance of the cast’s gag-a-minute riotous reactions keeps the comedy constant. The crazy fun choreography by Nicole Morris-Anastasi amps up the hilarity. Joey Luck’s sound design was usually top notch, but I did miss some of the lyrics. The set by Connor Potter was serviceable, while Michael Jarett’s lights don’t draw attention to themselves, but perfectly bolster the action. Ruth Hedberg’s ragged costumes work well. Running time: 2:20

 

THE POINT: The wonderfully ferocious performances and wildly inventive staging make this outrageously outlandish show one of the finest and funniest of the season.

 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

At TheatreLAB thru 12/28

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Photos by Tom Topinka

Hamilton (review)

Hamilton (review)

THE PLAY: The story of Alexander Hamilton is told thru a hip hop and pop score with a racially diverse cast.

 

THE PRODUCTION: First off, I saw the original cast production, but this ensemble is just as full of boundless energy, strong voices and magnetic performances, especially Paul Oakley Stovall as Washington and Bryson Bruce as Jefferson (who gets extra love from the Virginia audience). The staging isn’t especially innovative, but the almost continuous activity, virtually non-stop dancers and the constantly changing lighting make for a visually vigorous production. If you’re not familiar with the complexity of the story and the complex brilliance of the lyrics, it would be smart to listen to the soundtrack. Fortunately, most of the words can be clearly heard, but there are some rapid-fire numbers that get lost. Although the second act is more intense and drags a wee bit, it also features some powerfully tragic moments. If you don’t understand why this show has become such an phenomenon, seeing it onstage will answer that question. Running time: 2:50

 

THE POINT: This masterpiece of writing is brought to dazzling life with expressive energy, powerful voices and robust staging.

 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

A Broadway in Richmond production at the Altria Theatre thru 12/8 (some tix still available, including the $10 lottery tix. Visit the site for details.)

 

Times Square Angel (review)

Times Square Angel (review)

THE PLAY: This is a semi-camp take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, transported to the drag-infused world of Charles Busch.

 

THE PRODUCTION: The central role of Irish O’Flanagan is played by Wette Midler (better known to theatre folk as Luke Newsome). The character’s overbearing personality should be the show’s strength, but Newsome fails to inhabit a captivating theatrical style that would have elevated his performance (and dominated the show). Some of the fault may lie with director Melissa Rayford, who could have imbued the production with a more arch, stylized approach. The highly-capable supporting cast provides most of the show’s comic character highlights (Desiree Dabney proving most hilarious). Curiously, the dialogue is peppered with accents that seem to come and go randomly. The basic but nice-looking set by Mercedes Schaum serves the production well. Alex Valentin’s costumes are attractively designed, but some of the detailing is a bit shoddy (and 2 bra straps showing in O’Flanagan’s opening number dress is unforgivable). The lighting design by Austin Harber is fine, while the projections from Lucian Restivo add another scenic element. After the curtain call, the cast puts on a mini-Christmas show.  Running time: 2:10

 

THE POINT: There’s a clear line between camp and “straight” comedy. This production proves too lackluster to work either way.

 

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

 

At Richmond Triangle Players thru 12/21

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

(Photos by John MacLella

Lombardi (review)

Lombardi (review)

THE PLAY: A reporter is sent to write a story about legendary coach Vince Lombardi during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Is this show for someone who doesn’t appreciate football? As one of those people, I’d say, “Not especially.” And some of that is the script. The flat first act feels like a Wikipedia entry. Fortunately, Act Two focuses on conflicts, which makes the drama more cohesive. Ken Moretti captures the coach’s aggressive personality, but sometimes seemed tentative. CJ Bergin’s reporter/narrator echoes the audience’s POV with pleasant appeal. As the wife, Linda S. Beringer brings a slightly saucy personality to her character (and provides the show’s strongest performance). The 3 players manage to capture team energy in Act Two. I’m not sure how co-directors Scott Wichmann and Todd Labelle split their duties, but the combination couldn’t overcome the script’s weakness or bring cohesion to the first act’s short, disjointed scenes. Frank Foster has created a bland, utilitarian set featuring cubbies cluttered with memorabilia. The lights and costumes are adequate. Running time: 1:45

 

THE POINT: Fans of the Packers will enjoy this tribute to their most famed coach, but as a theatrical experience, this production failed to score.

 

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

At Firehouse Theatre thru 11/23

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Axle J Burtness, Ken Moretti, CJ Bergin, Linda S Beringer (Photos by Bill Sigafoos)

Artsies 2019 recap (5 videos)

Artsies 2019 recap (5 videos)

The Richmond Theatre Critics Circle presented the 12th annual Artsies last nite at Virginia Rep’s November Theatre (click here for a list of the awards).

 

This year’s theme was “All the World’s a Stage,” which focused on the concept of artists coming and going into our theatre community. Some have started in Central Virginia and moved away to larger cities. Others, like the show’s hosts Bianca Bryan and Jerold Solomon, had success in New York before moving to Richmond to continue their careers. Speaking of hosts, Bianca and Jerold sang beautifully and had a great time with the comic bits. (Click here to read the lyrics to both songs)

 

Highlights of the evening:

– The opportunity for us to hear Virginia Rep’s Artistic Director Nathaniel Shaw sing (quite beautifully in a duet from “Once” with Katrina Carol Lewis)

– The RVA Theatre Alliance revealed their new brand and Facebook page (click here to visit)

– TWO plays were awarded Best Play & TWO designers were awarded Best Costume Design (Musical).

– Senator Tim Kaine and his wife Ann Holton were in attendance  to support their daughter, Annella, who was in the Artsie-winning ensemble for “The Laramie Project”

– After receiving his Best Director award for “The Laramie Project,” Lucian Restivo proposed to his longtime boyfriend (Luke Newsome) right on stage

 

Here’s my recap video (5:02)

Watch Video

 

Four videos were shown during the event (all produced by TVJerry). Click on the + to enjoy them without the noisy audience.

 

All the World’s a Stage (Part 1)

Watch Video

 
 

All the World’s a Stage (Part 2)

Watch Video

 
 

Richmond Theatre LEGACY Awards

Watch Video

 
 

In Memoriam

Watch Video

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