Red Chair Affair
Directed by John DiDonna
By The Red Chair Project
At the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center
August 28, 2010
Way back when I stared this column, The Central Florida Theater Alliance acted as a clearing house between actors and jobs and let you know about oddball shows. Today they’ve grown and expanded that function and now wear the opaquely name “Red Chair Project” and act as marketing, publicity and all around cheer leader for our area arts group. Tonight they held their annual mega-fundraiser and packed Orlando’s soon-to-be-retired Bob Carr Performing Arts Center. I grabbed a last minute seat way up under the balcony, and while opera glasses would have helped, everything sounded crystal clear.
I missed the preshow lobby performances but the fifteen on stage acts highlighted the best of Orlando’s professional entertainment industry. The Bach Festival opened with the “Star Spangled Banner” and we needed the MC reminded us to stand, yet few did the “hand on the heart” thing. Our National Anthem is notoriously hard to sing and it was nice to have a few solid sopranos in there to hit the high ones. Cirque du Soleil followed with a speedy and impressive juggling act called “The Juggler and the Green Bird” but I must point out the bird guy was actually dressed in yellow and red. Orlando Shakespeare put Mellissa Mason and Mike Gill up to sing two cute songs from the upcoming “Jingle Jangle Christmas,” and later the Orlando Gay Chorus side project “Mélange” belted through a popular medley of Frankie Valli tunes from “Jersey Boys.” Other noteworthy music came from Melissa Vasquez in Winter Park Playhouse’s snippet from their recent sell out “Feelin’ Groovy,” and the impressive youngsters from Orlando Rep successfully re-arranged Bill Wither’s “Lean On Me.”
Several dance companies appeared. Emotions Dance had local spoken word guy Todd Caviness narrate their interpretation of the beginning of the world, and the Orlando Ballet danced with a minimal mix of modernism and tradition: Katia Garza and Patric “I have a garish tattoo on my belly” Palkens had the Five Positions and Advanced Leaps down as well as the newer Aaron Copland moves. I’ve always missed Yow Dance at the Fringe, but now they’re on top of my list after seeing their ambitious “Blackberry Winter” with its 13 dancers and quick “behind the curtain” crossing maneuvers. Finally, Baby Blue Star and her VarieTEASE girls did what they do best, although they toned it down for this predominantly blue haired audience – the flipped their skirts, but kept on all their undies.
Comedy snuck in with Sak’s three Daves (Russell, Charles, and the piano player guy) improving a game called “Interrogation” and wrapping it up right at the wire. Bay Street players produced the famous “Baseball” song from “Ragtime” to remind us how professional sports can teach young man respect, sportsmanship and how to properly dress down a lousy hitter while chewing tobacco. Still, my favorite number came right at the end where The Orlando Philharmonic has a brass sextet blasting off a medley of numbers from “Chicago” covering “All That Jazz” right up through “Mr. Cellophane.” Off on the side of all this activity you saw Thomas Thorspecken sketching furiously and a pair of ASL interpreters. They were nearly as entertaining as the performers with the signers even performing some duets. Between acts there were short videos from local officials and sponsors with local landmarks like the Eden Bar and City Hall green screened in behind them. Our officials were a bit stilted and the sponsors tended toward self congratulation but I figure the videos gave the stage hands good cover to move sets. And after all, some people are better at acting, and others are better at giving actors a place to act, and we need them all.
For more information please visit http://RedChairProject.com
Sketches of this performance will appear at http://thorspecken.blogspot.com/ shortly.