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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for November, 2013

A Year With Frog And Toad

Monday, November 18th, 2013

A Year With Frog And Toad
Book and Lyrics by Willie Reale
Music by Arnold Lobel
Directed by Wade Hair
Musical Direction by Justin J Scarlat
Choreography by Ryan Skrocki
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

Well, there’s not a lot of dramatic tension in this show, but the songs are nice and the production is a cute as a bug. Frog (Wade Hair) and Toad (Justin Scarlat) are best friends with relatively few amphibian hobbies – no fly eating or croaking late at night. Rather, they visit each other, drink tea, bake cookies and fret over body shape issues. Hibernation occupies their winter moments and they rely on wind up alarm clocks to time the seasons. Their friends the Birds (Candy Heller, Krystal Gillette and Pilar Rehert) migrate back and forth in leather helmets and fur accents and tease them for their earth bound lifestyle. Mr. Snail (Danny Paeres) delivers letters; he also gets by far the best songs of the show: “The Letter” proclaims his blinding travel speed, and “Coming out of My Shell” shows us he may be slow and slimy, but he has dreams and is working on achieving them. The titular characters have a great chemistry, Frog announces “You’re the toad of my dreams” and how can you not love a line like that? Their songs are paeans to eternal friendship (“Spring”, “He’ll Never Know”) and well intentioned competition (“The Kite”) and helping in times of crisis (“Toad to the Rescue”). A huge chorus fills the stage, there are over a dozen young people in furry creature costumes and the wrangling must have been an adventure for the adults. I rate this as fully fun, and a fine show to introduce youngsters to theater.

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

The Big Oz

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

The Big Oz
Written and Directed by Jay Hopkins
Starring Keith Charles Traver, Sara Lockard, and Robert Diachesyn
Jester Theatre Company
Presented at the Orlando Shakespeare Center

“Toto, I don’t think we’re at the Fringe Festival anymore.” I had to get that line out of the way; it would have just loomed over this post if I didn’t say it somewhere, somehow. “The Wizard of Oz” is the sort of modern cultural touchstone Cupid and Psyche offered to the ancient Greeks, and modern writers can feel free to slice and dice it into whatever they want, knowing full well even Bosnian refugees will get the gag. In the case of Jay Hopkins and the Sak crew, that transformation takes Dorothy and Toto into the Film Noir world of molls and tough guys and high minded loners working to save the world.

In Meta Kansas, Frances (Trever) is in love with (Tootsie) Sara Lockard, but her dad (Robert Diachesyn) disproves and since he runs the town, it’s no dice for these kids. He beats Frances with his 5 iron and everyone is transported to Meta Oz and we transition from a Technicolor Techno dance club to black and white land of sight gas and film school jokes. Frances wakes up in an amnesiac state with Tootsie as his side kick, the Tin Man (Maria Ragen) wears a ball gown and knows everyone in town, the Scarecrow (Michael Knight) is a law school dropout, and the Cowardly Lion (Grail Schroeder) is a thug who’s lost his bouncer bone. Jokes fly, there’s plenty of tough guy action (courtesy of fight coordinator Bill Warriner) and I found the reflections off the Tins Man’s dress fascinating.

Is there a deep meaning here? Heck no, its gag driven comedy at its best with no respect for the fourth wall and a troupe of comic wizards. High points include Mr. Diacheysn’s self-absorbed tough guy Wicked Mitch of the West, Adam Scharf’s bouncy enforcer who laws looks like he’s about to twinkle up into the rafters, and Marcie Schwalm as the hoodie-wearing DJ and District Attorney in Oz. Some of the jokes are groaners, some come flying out of left field, and even if something doesn’t quite connect, the next joke is there so fast you can’t draft a decently outraged letter to the producer. This show originated in the 1999 Orlando fringe, I liked it then and I like it today. It’s been a long 15 years.

For more information on Jester Theater Company, please visit http://www.jestertheater.com

Crazy For Gershwin

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Crazy For Gershwin
Conceived by Roy Alan
Written by Todd Allen Long
Directed by Rob Winn Anderson
Choreographed by Rob Winn Anderson and Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Christopher Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Winter Park Playhouse – the only theatre in town with a “100% Audience Hug Guarantee.” And tonight we’re not just here for the hugs, but to examine a slice of the work of the Gershwin Brothers, one of America’s most productive music writing teams. The Gershwin’s did most of their work in the Tin Pan Alley days. Jazz was evolving from the rollicking New Orleans sound to a more sedate and intellectual form we associate with the bebop sound of the post war New York, and the Gershwin’s took that as the backbone of their music. Jazz was denounced from the pulpit, so naturally everyone wanted to dance to it.

This collection was pulled together by Mr. Long and Mr. Allen, the music is the main event even as the singers act out each little number. If you hang around musical theatre you’ve heard many of these: ” ‘S Wonderful, “Someone To Watch Over You”, and “I Got Rhythm” are all standards we love, but a few nice obscurities creep in like “The Back Bay Polka” and “Little Jazz Bird”. The cast was a selection of regulars from past shows and a new comer, Kasey Sollenberger joined Roy Alan, Shawn Kilgore, Natalie Cordone, Kate Zaloumes and Victor Souffrant. Every one of these performers can tap like mad, and there were perhaps a half dozen tap routines. They were sweating, but you couldn’t see it – they’re THAT good. Rob Win Anderson has joined the WPPH team for this show, and he seems to be everywhere these days. It’s a good addition; the choreography was sharper and more thorough than in the past. No political messages here, no brooding chord structures, just a fun evening watching very skilled people do what they love best.

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

Assassins

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Assassins
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by John Weidman
Directed by Nicholas Murphy
Cornerstone Theatre Company
Presented at The Orlando Shakespeare Center, Orlando FL

Anyone can grow up to be President, but the really exclusive club belongs to those who attempted to assassinate a President. In this unlikely musical, Stephen Sondheim unites his dense musical stylings with vignettes of the disaffected and often unhinged set of men and women who turned simple murder into a political act. John Wilkes Booth (Thom Mesrobian) was the sanest; he plugged Lincoln thinking that would start a revolution. He can quote Shakespeare, but all he did was get himself burned alive while boosting Lincoln’s shaky poll numbers. Other assassins are nearly forgotten, the wild eyed Charles Guiteau (Bruce Costella) wanted to be ambassador to France but spoiled his chances when he shot Garfield, Stomach pain made Giuseppe Zangara (Joshua Lamboy) shoot the mayor of Chicago while aiming for FDR, and Sam Byck (Brett Carson) innovated the idea of crashing a commercial jetliner into the White House, although that plot never got off the ground.

While this is no love story, the music is interesting; “Ballad of Booth” and “Unworthy of Your Love” are almost hummable and the cast excellent. While Mesrobian is bit old to play the 28 year old Booth his voice is astounding and we can cut historical figure on stage some slack as long as he can sing. My favorite assassin was the spring wound Costella, when he first appears he comes off as a self-promoter but his inner wacko seeps out as the show progresses. Lynnette Fromme (Heather Lamboy) is great as the underfed hippy chick in love with Charles Manson, and even though her politics don’t mesh well with homey Sara Jane Moore (Mary Lee Carter) they make a great gal team of incompetent gunwomen. The Balladeer (Chaz Kriven) guides us through the history and then becomes history himself as he morphs into Lee Harvey Oswald. In the very disturbing last scene, the assassins convince him not to commit suicide, but rather commit murder. He doesn’t protest as much as you might hope, and just before that fatal shot someone points out helpfully: “All these red necks have three names.”

Cornerstone returns will another solidly built show that brings excellent new actors to stage. They continue to put amazing sets into small spaces, and while this company is new it’s extremely professional and has never disappointed. They’ve even linked in with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, so you might even claim a little civics extra credit for this show.

For more information on Cornerstone Theatre Company please visit http://www.cornerstonetheatrecompany.com/

The Spotlight Cabaret Series Presents: Candace Neil

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

The Spotlight Cabaret Series Presents: Candace Neil
Musical direction by Chris Leavy
November 6, 2013
Winter Park Play House, Winter Park FL

For a minute there I was worried – would this really be an hour of Candice scatting movie theme songs? I admit the James Bond theme was sort of interesting, and the theme from the Godfather was a unique interpretation but if she gotten as far as “Tron” or “The Devil Wore Prada” I’d have been completely lost. Good thing she switched over to well know show tunes that bring out the memories of lost Broadway glory. That and a few mandatory drinks and we were off on another fun evening: “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” came from the old anti-hero outlaw movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. I remember both the film and the song but forgot how that semi-sad song fit into the 1970’s nihilism of the film. “Hostess with the Mostess” came from the now rarely done “Call Me Madam,” it was well received as was “Making Whopee” and the mandatory slut number “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”. Ms. Neil’s hubby Tim Pappas appeared for a few TV theme songs, in my life they’ve gone from exciting to trite to quaint and now you can date peoples’ birthdays to which of those themes they can accurately sing along to. Another interesting guest appeared; Faith Boles joined in for the duet “Whatever Happened ot Class?” from “Chicago.” It’s cynical and touching, sort of like a car salesman complaining about needing a new dishwasher as he adds the price of floor mats to your financing package. The hour went quickly, and the finale was a rousing “Nine to Five”, it’s the sort of song that’s just positive enough to get you out of bed and into work, but anything beyond that is up to your supervisor. That’s why we go to cabarets on week nights.

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