The 2011 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival runs May 19 to May 30 at Loch Haven Park in Orlando, Florida. Because I am involved in a production, I will not be commenting on show this year. Tickets and other information may be found at www.OrlandoFringe.org
by Carl F Gauze
Archive for May, 2011
By Steven Fales
Footlights Theatre, Orlando FL
It’s a coming out story, but it’s the nicest coming out story I’ve run into in years. Mr. Fales grew up a devout Mormon, but with a hint of SSA (Same Sex Attraction.) He loved the church, the ritual, and the magic underwear, but since the LDS ranks homosexuality with UFO’s his attraction to the BYU football team put him in an awkward spot – make out with another Young Ambassador tenor or marry a tall, blue eyed, incredibly horny Mormon fembot. His faith was stronger than his convictions so he went with the blonde and they started a family. Soon his love of confession got him excommunicated, and when the closet door pops open, his last “Can I be forgiven?” was answered with a brusque “Give us your undies and beat it.” Off to New York and a profitable if unstable gig as an actor, a waiter and a tax exempt escort. Just as the biggest sinners make the most pious converts, Mr. Fales became the poster boy of “How Not To Be A Mormon.”
Fales’ boyish looks and cocaine-white teeth offer a winning charm, and unlike so many gays who grew up in pious households, he seems genuinely hurt the LDS won’t have him back. Like the Pharisees and other ideologues, they aren’t very big on forgiveness and tolerance; it’s their way or the highway. Fales’ positive attitude helps, even if he seems over-eager to air all his own dirty laundry. What really wrenches this story home is the end – he removes his hairpiece and instantly ages 20 years. Removing it took him from cute and vivacious to middle aged and sad, but he also went from plastic Ken to a real human who looked tired, haunted, and out of place with the world around him. It’s a powerful story, never whiny and always pulling you forward. Fales needs group acceptance, and that’s what churches and secret societies offer. There’s undoubtedly a bit of you in him somewhere.
By Ralph G Allen, Harry Rigby, Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields, Al Dubin, and Arthur Malvin
Directed by Michael Edwards
Choreography by Roy Alan
Musical Direction Chris Leavy
Starring Michael Edwards, Roy Alan and Heather Alexander
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL
Who wrote this show, the whole Brill Building? Could be, there are slices and dices of every Orpheum act that played in Peoria on this stage. True, these are jokes your grandfather knew and dances that filled nitrate film stock until it all melted or exploded, but this is the heart of American entertainment, and gosh darn it, these chestnuts are still funny and engaging.
Tonight’s ensemble is lead by Top Banana Michael Edwards in a noisy jacket and beat up top hat. Backing him up is Roy Alan (Banana 2.0) alternating between silly pants and his second best tux. There are Chorines (Courtney Sherman and April Sullivan), straight men (Todd Mummert and Mark Baratelli), a full metal Prima Donna (Alexander), pratfalls and blackout, fan dances and fart jokes, all held together by more double entendres and spit takes than the last presidential debate. And while you can takes this as pure WPPH froth, there are hints of history in the program – “Meet Me Round the Corner” and “Little Red School House” have deep roots, “Sally” recalls the racy dances of Sally Rand and her famous fans, and “The Court of Last Retort” underlies Sammy Davis Jr. “Here Com Da Judge” gags on Laugh-In.
It’s not just laughs, there’s more full length tapping on stage than in that Fred Astaire show from a year ago, and even Mr. Baratelli hoofs thought a few numbers. There are minstrel songs, fancy dancing, and glow in the dark cardboard banjos. Candace Neal played the female lead in act one, her frilly pink panties and Bronx laugh crossed the stage until it’s time for Ms. Alexander’s arrival. They roll here in on a steamer trunk, and she channels Margret Dumont singing Grand Opera. With its decidedly lowbrow material, Vaudeville never missed a chance to point out when it presented opera – it added class to the proceedings and gave everyone a chance to use the rest room. Later Ms. A reappears as an earthier Madam Alla Gazaza and then helps with some light audience humiliation in “First Annual Shimmy Contest.” Too soon, there are bows and it’s time to say good bye. A real vaudeville would have repeated the acts over and over, but today we just hit rewind. A cool show, funny as all heck, and it’s a good thing they reinforced the stage – that pounding Wall of Tap would have destroyed an older building.
For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org
Created by Lora Dorothy Massey
Performed by Skill Focus: Burlesque
The Geek Easy at A Comic Shop, Winter Park Fl
A depressing strip center. A dark and creepy parking lot parked so full of cars I ended up next to the exhaust fan from a skanky Chinese restaurant. The store front I sought has less illumination than the closed tattoo shop next door, and inside at the end of an endless aisle of graphic novels and uber modern angst filled super hero comics I find the “Geek Easy.” It’s jammed full of hipster tee shirts, loud music pounds and a keg of beer flows. The walls are covered with eight bit art, and the predominantly male audience is waiting for a night of amateur burlesque. That’s the reviving art form that allows women to strip in public for strangers in exchange for dollar bills and leering applause, and like most porn related work, there’s’ a premium paid for the non-professional.
This is Winter Park, and total nudity isn’t allowed lest we lose what little touristy self respect we have, but that’s not exactly the point. The women working the runway have respectable jobs and normal lives; one of them is on the board of a local nonprofit. Their individual reasons may vary, but there’s an element of boundary pushing, some bucket list checking, and the pushing of individual safety zones. A tension over who controls the space exists, while there are dozens of frothing patrons, the power in the room belongs to the women stripping and the Emcee. Money changes hands, but unlike professional clubs, once the money is accepted its immediate cast to the ground. No one is putting a kid though day care here, no one is feeding a monkey on their back.
I lost count of the girls, there were maybe eight or ten. Each had a theme, each theme tied to the comics world – Dr. Who, The Hulk, maybe a few Batman uber villains, and even three guys came out for the decidedly mixed and partly theatric audience. Photography was encouraged, a pro video camera ran and a homemade follow spot kept a bright light on the action. The whole show took an hour, we never ran out of beer, and afterwards the girls came out to meet friends, lovers and presumably agents. Unlike the professional clubs, no bouncers in tuxedos hung around and you never felt like you were getting clipped. Geeks may not have a reputation for sex, but tonight their engineering skills made for a fun and friendly night.
Check for more Geek Easy events at http://www.facebook.com/#!/home.php?sk=group_209726552379235
Skill Focus: Burlesque offers more dates and fun events at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_209726552379235#!/pages/Skill-Focus-Burlesque/195803080454912
Book by Joe Masteroff, Music by John Kander and Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed by Randy Tapper
Starring Jason Crase, Clay Cozart, and Amy Parnell
Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, Sanford FL
Cliff Bradshaw (Cozart) wanders Europe aiming to find himself and write the Great American Novel, which isn’t possible in Pennsylvania. In London he made progress on his sex life, but Paris didn’t provide as much inspiration as required, so he heads to 1931 Berlin where at least the night life is interesting. At the seedy Kit Kat Klub he meets British expatriate Sally Bowels (Parnell) along with an old lover from London, a Nazi smuggler (Brendon Rogers) and that jack of all trades The Emcee (Crase). Well, it’s the height of the depression, and what artist has two groschen to rub together? Sally moves in with Cliff, heterosexuality gets the better of him, and soon it’s time to hurry home, lest someone get huffy about the poor fetus’s birth certificate some day in the future.
You’ve seen the movie, you’ve bought the poster, and you’ve played the old 8 bit Atari video game, but you really need to see this show live. Directors Tapper, Musical Director Don Hopkinson and Choreographer Kitty Serpe pulled off a bang up job with this show. While the Kit Kat girls and boys can look a little tatty in some productions, these kids danced together, kicked in unison, and generally looked like that had the ghost of Bob Fosse haunting their leotards. Both Sally and Cliff could sing, (although Cliff could be rather wooden when speaking), and even the sub-plot love interests Frau Schneider (Vicki Wicks) and Herr Schulz (Eric Johnson) stuck some real sparks on “It Couldn’t Please Me More.” Cleary the crowd favorite was the suitably ambiguous Emcee who dominated anything he sang from the vaudeville “Two Ladies” to his appearance in the makeup mirror high up on the set in “What Would You Do.” Parnell’s Sally was nearly as good from her ensemble opener “Don’t Tell Mama” to the bitter sweet closer “Cabaret.”
Just a few miles beyond Seminole State College, this restored theatre might look like a classic community theatre on the outside, but inside its solidly professional. They’ve pulled in great regional talent and done justice to this crowd pleaser. Yeah, there were some microphone problems and for some odd reason they stopped the music while the cast took their bows, but the set looked cool, no one missed a line, and they pulled no punches from the sex scenes to the cocaine sniffing. Sanford? It’s worth the drive, and parking is a breeze.
For more information on the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, please visit http://www.WDPAC.com