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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for September, 2013

Disenchanted

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Disenchanted
Book, Music and Lyrics by Dennis T Giacino
Florida Theatrical Association
Presenting at The Abbey, Orlando FL

Maybe this is the show. Maybe this is the show that breaks out of the Orlando Fringe and becomes the next “Urinetown” or “[title of show].” It’s got the legs, both literally and figuratively. We meet the Princesses of Disney, stripped of their wussy little girl persona and turned into post-feminist, post-modernist, and post-lesbian anti-heroes. The leader of the pack is powerful Snow White (Michelle Knight), with her operatic power she hits those High C Over Disney land notes and in “One More Happily Ever After” she pushed The Abbey’s already overdriven audio system over its acoustic edge. If you’ve seen earlier version of this show, there are some significant changes. The minor deities have been eliminates or promoted with Cinderella (Breanne) as the ditz who finds her inner strength, and Sleeping Beauty (Hannah Berry-Mathews) as the earth mother type. Backing them are outrageous Andre Canny covering the loony Belle and the drunk-on-oxygen Little Mermaid. Lulu Picart is the crowd favorite Hua Mulan and her half-sister Pocahontas in her leather fringed miniskirt. Shonda L Thurman is a hysterical Rapunzel as well as the Frog Kissing Princess Who Has No Name. These are some of the strongest female voices we have in this town.

The music comes from a live band; there are rim shots and a kicking bass line and some third wall breaking between the band and Snow White. Sets are glorious, the undersea rig for “Two Legs” is complete with a shell themed Port-o-let. The strongest songs are still the same, Belle’s “Insane”, Shonda’s “Not V’one Red Cent” sung in dirndl drag, and the ensemble “Finally”. The only complaint I’ll offer is the sound system is driven too hard, the microphones tended to feed back and the overdriven sound diminished the quality of the singes voices. Hopefully they can turn the amps down to 9, and you can catch this gem as it preps for the big time on Broadway.

For other events at The Abbey, visit http://abbeyorlando.com

For more information on “Disenchanted” please visit www.disenchantedmusical.com

The Library Is Now Open

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

The Library Is Now Open
A Cabaret with Trevor Southworth
Musical Direction by Chris Ensley
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Trevor Southworth loves books, and all musicals have a book, so this show is a natural. Fresh off his success in “8 Track,” this young man appears in the ever-so-elegant lobby of the Winter Park Playhouse for an evening of literary themed songs. His opener is a parody of “I Hope I Get It”, its funny and done well enough that it takes about two verses before you think “Wait a minute….” Tunes from “Children of a Lesser God” and “Into the Woods” are nice choices, if a bit predictable, but the killer surprise here is a not-quite-lounge, not-quite-folk rendition of the classic ’60s Psychedelic hit “Go Ask Alice”. It could use a bit more reverb, but it’s shocking because It’s Just So Not A Cabaret Tune. We loved it. Camelot’s’ “C’est Moi” gave Mr. Southward a chance to look and sound as smug as Lancelot himself and if it were any more manly people would have exploded. The most touching number is “1776’s” “Mama Look Sharp”, it’s the lament of a young man shot in battle losing all his military bravado as he slips away in the name of a revolution. Lastly I’ll mention the Big Closer; his “Music of the Night” from “Phantom” brought a well-deserved standing ovation. A great show as always and the experiment of hosting cabarets in the lobby begun two years ago has turned into a consistent sell-out event. There’s another on coming next month, check the link below.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org

Monty Python’s Spamalot

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Monty Python’s Spamalot
Book and Lyrics by Eric Idle
Music by John Du Perez, Eric Idle, and Neil Innes
Directed by Tom Kline
Musical Direction by Don Hopkinson
Choreography by Rosemary DeMott
Starring Andre Provencher, James Canavan, Noel Marie Berkofsky and Robb Ross
Moonlight Players, Clermont FL

Yeah! The community theatre rights to this mega blockbuster musical are out now and one of the first local productions of Spamalot popped up in nearby Clermont. It’s not that far a drive anymore, and even if this little production company is hiding behind the local newspaper office this show is worth getting out to see. If you’re only familiar with the movies, Mr. Idle moved a few things around, mostly to tighten the story and make staging a bit easier. This story riffs on Malory’s collection of knightly derring do; King Arthur (Provencher) rides across Briton with his page and sound effects man Patsy (Canavan). He seeks knights to join him at the round table, and his kingly authority comes from the wet-bottomed tart Lady Of The Lake (Berkofsky) who gave him a sword and a wink. The knight he gathers are more for laughs than battle: the quavering Sir Robin (Ross), the strangely flatulent Sir Bedevere (Kirk Klemash), the ambiguous Sir Lancelot (Ryan Mobley) and the beautifully coiffed Sir Galahad (Spencer Bullen). Most of the movie survives this re-imagining even if scenes are occasionally juggles around or compressed. You’ll laugh at the French Taunting Scene, the Knights who say “Ni”, the Battle of the Black Knight (Klemash reprise), and the killer rabbit. If none of this makes sense, no matter, the sheer silliness will fill in the gaps, or just ask anyone at intermission.

The most impressive thing on stage was the dancing, there were big production numbers complete with tap, and while none of the tap steps were terrible complicated, everyone stayed in time and hit there marks in every number. The singing was outstanding as well; Berkofsky was gorgeous doing “The Song That Goes Like This” and “Whatever Happened to My Part?” Mr. Mobley packed a mean codpiece in the disco hit “His Name is Lancelot”, and the ensemble was excellent with the theme “Find Your Grail.” “Look on the Bright Side of Life” found its way into the show and even if it’s from a different movie it fits in well. Robb Ross was an exciting Sir Robin and “YouWon’t Make It on Broadway” was his best number.

Director Kline and his team did a marvelous job and even though this isn’t the big Broadway set featured at the Carr the intimacy of the space makes for a great comedy experience. If you sit in the front row be prepared to lean back to let everyone take their bows. Go. Now. Start driving.

For more information on The Moonlight Players please visit www.moonlightplayers.com

I Love You, Your Perfect, Now Change

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

I Love You, Your Perfect, Now Change
Book and lyrics by Joe DiPieto
Music by Jimmy Roberts
Directed by Michael Edwards
Musical Direction by Christopher Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Winter Park can’t get enough of this show; the playhouse folks are doing this for the seventh time in eleven years. Tonight’s ensemble includes Roy Alan and Heather Alexander assisted by Patrick Brandt and Heather Lea Charles. This premise is simple: couples sing their way through the stages of romance from first date to a post funeral pickup in the old folk’s receiving line. From the Benedictine chant that opens the show “Cantata for A first Date” to “Wedding Vows” we wiggle thought the prenuptial struggles of finding someone, then spending the second act figuring out who the heck that person snoring next to you is and why are they there? None of these tunes are bad, but some skits stand out: In “The Lasagna Incident” Ms. Alexander and Patrick are tennis buddies. She won’t let him win and wonders why he won’t make a pass even though she’s wearing one of those short short tennis outfits. He speaks of “respect”, she asks the “G” question, and then agrees to make him lasagna if he brings the wine and the condoms. Oops, is she really saying that? I guess so… Another awkward moment arises in “And Now the Parents.” Roy and Ms. Charles visit his parents, the folks are hoping for an engagement announcement but are disappointed as the couple is having an amiable break up, and now a fragile and well wrapped gift is going to waste. By the send act the kids are here, and with it a loss of time and energy for the horizontal rhumba. “Marriage Tango” takes that to extreme, the only way Roy and Ms. Charles can function daily is to constantly cross check each other. Lastly I’ll mention “Funeral Are for Dating.” Mr. Brandt is now an old geezer who’s become a connoisseur of funeral homes and services; he fills his spare time hitting on widows like Ms. Charles who hasn’t got that much going on any more herself. It’s touching and funny like an old Carol Burnett sketch. Backing all these orange slices of life is the solid musical efforts of Mr. Chris Leavy on piano and Ned Wilkinson, this time he limits himself to only playing the violin. It’s a fun and relaxing show, even your ex would enjoy seeing it again. Why not call her up and rattle her cage?

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org

The Taming of the Shrew

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

The Taming of the Shrew
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Starring Geoffrey Kent and Denna Gibson
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

Wow – a Shakespeare comedy that actually stops the show with laughter! True, this “Taming of the Shrew” has been moved from Padua, Italy to Padua, Arizona Territory but Helsinger replaces the Italianate Kate (Gibson) with Calamity Jane, she chase away suitors with a bull whip and drinks shots of Buzz brand whiskey. The rest of the plot is largely as you recall – Kate has serious anger issues while her younger sister Bianca (Melissa Masson) is the flirty cute one who bats off the boys. Her dad Baptista (John Ahlin) shrewdly demands Kate get married first, and that stumps Gremio (Brandon Roberts) and Hortensio (Chris Metz). The serious contender for Bianca is new comer Lucentio (Chris Ryan); he’s dressed in a plaid suit that could drop a Scotsman at 15 paces. He swaps identities with his servant Tranio (Jim Ireland) to woo her for reasons that I forgot by the end of the scene. Now Petruchio (Kent) shows up with his sidekick Grumio (Brad DePlanche), he’s looking for a rich wife and Kate’s premium dowry suits him fine. How will he deal with Kate? No problem, this guy’s has either worked interrogation camps or fast food management.

What’s not to love? Kent is a sexier Clint Eastwood type with a sparkle in his eye and a no-nonsense approach to women. When he fights the battle of the innermost cave with Kate they both succeed in breaking up on stage to everyone’s delight. Kate seems to be set on “11” for most of her performance and she snaps a bull whip and has no qualms of aiming it at inoffensive Brandon Roberts. Ryan’s equally as devious but takes a more classic approach to romance, he woos Bianca with Greek and Latin and an easy grading curve. The supporting cast is comedically strong, DePlanche has enough dirt on his face to pant potatoes and Ron Schneider appears as the confused and bombastic father of Lucentio, he gets arrested and belittled and has to pay for the big wedding at the end, and he didn’t even have a daughter. And don’t forget the slick Jim Ireland, he has a wonderful spasm scene yet feels like the calm center of this raucous comedy.

Purists rarely liken the relocation of Shakespeare into more modern settings and I’ve certainly seen a few clunks over the years. But this relocation works better than any other I’ve seen; it’s the cast and direction and exceptionally skilled performers. The tumble weeds and camp fire and on stage sharp shooting are cute but non-essential. The other strength of this production is the relation between Petruchio and Kate, it’s not as blatantly misogynist as originally written, here it’s more like Petruchio stages an intervention and gets Kate to calm down, smell the dessert sage and not be so PO’s 24/7. It’s not that he subdues her but rather resents her outlook and makes her happier with herself. But she’s still got that bull whip, just in case trouble arises.

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit
http://www.orlandoshakes.org

The Gingerbread Lady

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

The Gingerbread Lady
By Neil Simon
Directed by Tom Larkin
Starring Cira Larkin and Jenny Ornstein
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park, FL

While Neil Simon is best known for his comedies, he can write a heart breaker if he tries. Evy Mera (Larkin) just got back from drying out; it cost her $4500 in pre-inflation spare change. He last job was about two years ago as a lounge singer in Pittsburg, she set a record by falling off the stool 17 times and probably spilled th tip jar. Her strongest friends are the sexually unavailable Jimmy (Bob Brandenburg) and the incredibly vain Toby (Vicki Burns). They await her return and prepare a non-alcoholic reunion. This keeps Evy stays on the wagon for a few hours, but soon she has to shop and the pain of life returns along with her abusive deadbeat boyfriend Lou Tanner (Jim Cundiff). While she flirts with the delivery boy (Justin Scarlat), alienates Toby and chases off Jimmy, her daughter Polly (Ornstein) shows up and moves in. Polly’s just 17 but wise in the ways of world as only a writer can make a child, but she battles it out with mom until they reach a dry detente. Honestly, I can see them ten years hence, living with windows blacked out, men a distant memory and a weekly airdrop from Total Wine. If only they can figure out how to finance their addiction to misery…

This inverted “Days of Wine and Roses” works surprisingly well, there are a few punch out gags in the first act but the second act is decidedly more interesting: not only is Evy sinking, she’s pulling down the life guard as a well. Larkin feels world weary and even when she she’s flirting with the delivery boy you can tell its bluster. Ornstein’s text might be a bit unrealistic she does an excellent job of reining it in and making us believe she’s older. Brandenburg is wonderfully scatterbrained as the stereotypic late 1960’s “Theatrically Acceptable Gay,” and the normally gentle Cundiff makes the transition a deadbeat wife beater with the addition of a serious ’70s porn ‘stash. My absolute favorite was Ms. Burns and her obsessive nose powdering, she’s convinced herself that perfect makeup and designer dresses would keep the boobs bouncy and none of boys will notice she reeks of lavender powder. This is a nice revival of an obscure play by a man not known for dark drama and it’s well-executed in the most intimate setting in town.

For more information, please visit http://www.breakthroughtheatre.com or look them up on Facebook.

The Cortez Method

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

The Cortez Method
By Rob Keefe
Directed by Mark Routhier
Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Orlando FL

Imagine Willie Loman marrying Lady Macbeth and trying to make a life on the set of “Deliverance.” That’s the logline they needed on this world premiere of a New Playfest favorite from last year. Marginally unsuccessful Bill (Paul Bernardo) flies packages from SDF to CMI and other exciting destinations in the Quad Cities area, but he’s stuck on third shift because those damn Vietnam vets won’t retire or die. His wife Sara (Suzanne O’Donnell) has ambitions, she wants a kid and a high tech kitchen and 30 acres of Redneck Heaven, and it’s up to Bill to pay for it. That introduces pill Billy drug dealer Odette (Melanie Whipple), she gets Bill to deliver special packages to the ground crews in the lower Ohio River Valley and that finances the cherry cabinets and the German FickenIhrBudget five burner stove. But what sparks the real household crisis isn’t the month miscarriages or the omnipresent dry rot and termites, it’s the arrival of over the top Walter, Bill’s dead beat brother. Walter has the goods on Bill, and this time only needs $30k to buy a welding rig or a couple of ounces of speed. Bill waffles, Sara attacks and Odette has a knife. It’s deer season and people die every year from accidental gun shot or throat slitting. Problem solved.

While Sara spews bile and gets everyone else to do her dirty work, you feel sorry for Bill and the awful situation he’s ended up in. Walter is the loud guy everyone in an office job knows, but he’s more insidious, he knows just how often he can milk his brother. The cryptic title to this show refers the legend that Cortez sank his ships so his men would be motivated, but here Walter only sets fire to the pizza boxes in the backseat of his Toyota and leaves the windows up. While everyone is solid, it’s Whipple’s Odette that steals the show. She looks like you should smell her down at the bar, and no one should be as successful a dealer as she is with her space cadet attitude but she’s gloriously sleazy, rejoices in the gift of a dead man’s jacket and Praise the Lord, a free Toyota: “They hardly EVER need a-fixing’!” Bill gets the best line of the show, he screams at his unborn half fetus: “Gestate, you Fucker!” I sense this kid will need prenatal counseling.

While some scenes and themes get beat to death (the “death atmosphere” of Bill’s parents’ house, Walters’s inability to focus on or off speed, Sara’s obsession with ovulation) the overall story is entertaining and brutally honest. Walter constantly calls Bill a pussy, Bill constantly validates the accusation, and Sara’s manipulation and self-service only lacks the green makeup to make her character complete. Odette is no prize either but at least she’s honest and appreciative of small favors. The interstice between these lost rustics is filled with blood and violence, and at its heart this is a Shakespearian tragedy – you hate everyone, and those who don’t have the mercy to die are not looking forward to a bright future.

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit
http://www.orlandoshakes.org

These Are A Few of My Favorite Themes

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

These Are A Few of My Favorite Themes
A cabaret by Natalie Cordone
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Natalie Cordoned returns for her fourth cabaret at Winter Park Playhouse in a colorful summer dress with a basket of popular show tunes. She’s the most popular (or most available) singer in this great little series, and tonight she aims for the easy-to-like tunes from movies like “Nine to Five” and “Wizard of Oz” as well as the big musicals including “Gypsy” and “My Fair Lady”. She even tosses out an impressive aria from “La Bohème,” I didn’t catch the title but it stopped the show. Audience sing-along was occasionally encouraged, but I kept my mouth shut for fear of scaring off any new customers. There was an Audrey Hepburn thread, “I Wish I was In Love Again” from “Sabrina” and “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffanies” were crowd favorites. Behind her we had Chris Leavy on piano, and off on the side was a small film crew recoding the action. The show was intimate, the drinks were stiff, and we were out before the rains came.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org/