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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for July, 2016

The Student Prince

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

The Student Prince
By Sigmund Romberg
Directed by Eric Pinder
With the Space Coast Symphony Orchestra
Musical Direction by Aaron Collins
Starring Samuel Hall and Marina Jurica
Orlando Light Opera & Central Florida Vocal Arts
Presented at the Annie Russell Theatre
Winter Park FL

As someone in the lobby confided to me: “You forget how long these old operettas can take.” And at three hours running time, you might agree. We’ll get to that shortly, but here’s the play by play: Prince Karl Franz (Hall) and his tutor Dr. Engle (Joseph Ryan) head off to Heidelberg to polish Karl’s social skills and escape the dreary Schloss Karlsberg. Attended by his snooty valet Lutz, (Eric Branch) Karl Franz falls for the popular barmaid Kathy (Jurica); this bumps up against his royal obligation to marry his cousin Princess Margret (Theresa Leigh Smith-Levin). The low class beer drinking company offends Lutz but Engle and the Prince enjoy their freedom until Karl is called back by Margret and her Lutz-like mother Grand Duchess Anastasia (Maeghin Mueller). Despite his promises to Kathy, Karl abandons her and prepares to enter a loveless marriage with the princess.

Most people know Romberg’s tale of royal lust and abandonment from the 1954 MGM film starring the voice of Mario Lanza; it presents the first act up to Karl Frantz’s departure from Heidelberg. Here the second act mostly serves to drive home the melodrama; Karl Frantz is much less likeable as he explicitly takes two years to break his promise to Kathy. Further, we see Margret has other interests in the form of dashing Captain Tarnitz (Kevin Romero). Everyone in this cast is at their best when singing; the speaking parts are often hard to hear except for Karl Franz; he can deliver his precise baritone all the way to the parking lot. He rocks “Heidelberg Fair” and dominates the ensemble number “Serenade.” Jurica keeps your attention as well; her strengths show her equal to Mr. Hall in their duet “Deep in My Heart, Dear”. The supporting cast has is gems as well: the anthem of this show “Drinking Song” is led by an excellent Count Detlef (Andrew LeJeune). Ms. Smith-Levine and Mr. Romero show their skills in the second act with “Just We Two.” Local favorite Eric Branch spends the show looking like he smelled cabbage fart; and Mr. Ryan matches well with Karl Franz as co-conspirators invading the demimonde of German education.

The original operetta has four acts and at least two intermissions. There’s just one break here, and it’s awkwardly set between acts two and three. That gives us the rousing act one closer “Will You Join Our Nobel Saxon Corp” taking us to a natural break; but the house lights stay down and a musical bridge plays as patrons sneak out to the rest room. The actual break between act two and three holds no natural stopping point in the action; but given the audience had two hours invested there was some attrition. There was some excellent singing and the wonderful Space Coast Orchestra on display here, but a good deal of the first act business could have been edited to give us a tighter and more 21st century-friendly show.

For more information on Orlando Light Opera please visit https://www.facebook.com/OrlandoLightOpera/

For more information on Central Florida Vocal Arts please visit www.centralfloridavocalarts.com/

I Love My Wife

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

I Love My Wife
Book and Lyrics by Michael Stewart
Music by Cy Coleman
Directed by Michael Edwards
Choreography by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

I can’t remember a time when I felt so motivated to put a dollar bill in Heather Alexander’s underwear as I did tonight. “I Love My Wife” takes the WPPH crew down an unusually racy path.While no actual naughty bits appear, this show is a risqué, sometimes uncomfortable journey in the 70’s age of wife swapping and group sex. The Svengali of this proposed orgy is Wally (Michael Colavolpe); he explains to his reticent buddy Alvin (Shawn Kilgore) how a poly-sexual life style is MUCH nicer than doing it with the same woman over and over. Alvin waffles, the band look on in despair, but when he brings this radical idea home to his wife Cleo (Natalie Cordone) she tells him to pound sand. But only for a few lines; pretty soon she’s in a hot short skirt and ready to do it with Alvin. The three then team up to surprise Alvin’s wife Monica (Heather Alexander) at Christmas dinner. After she throws the most justified tantrum in musical theatre history she agrees as well. Now all that’s left is the cleanup.

With a cast of four troopers and an expanded band entering into dialog this show raises the anemoia of the sexual revolution so few of us experienced. While Ms. Alexander fights hard on stage for her honor, she also seemed to have the most fun sinning. Slick Mr. Colavolpe wore exceptionally flammable and tight fitting polyester shirts, he also had the air of “Trust me, I’m REALLY gonna like what happens next!” Mr. Kilgore was everybody’s whiffle ball, he just wanted to get along and go along and not get in any trouble. A bad reputation might have destroyed his moving business, as you might guess; his failure to launch became the moral center of this comedy. Ms. Cordone’s Cleo had the strongest arguments against swapping but she also led one of the best tunes in the production “Love Revolution.” In the expanded band section even percussionist Sam Forrest had a grumpy line on stage. He’s the guy that stretched artistically the farthest in this show.

The music is perky, the message dated but the only real concern concerns the forced script. When confronted with morally questionable suggestions the females reject, argue and then quickly collapse. I know you need this for a fast paced romantic comedy but it just feels weird. Were a generation or two away from the undulating seventies, and a whole new sexual revolution is already behind us. But we should remember those early waves of glorious promiscuity and drug use for what they taught us. And I forget what that was exactly, that decade is all just a hazy memory. Must have been the hashish…


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

Sarah Lee Dobbs Sings the British Song Book

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Sarah Lee Dobbs Sings the British Song Book
Starring Sarah Lee Dobbs
Musical direction by John R. Mason III
Jericko Productions
The Persian Room at Ali Baba’s House of Kabob
July 27, 2016
Longwood, FL

The WHOLE British Song Book? Sounds like a project, and I have another event tomorrow night. But Ms. Dobbs was very selective; her entire show ran just over an hour and she did some extensive editing. The whole Beatle’s catalog was squished down to a short medley, and Freddy Mercury was tucked into the pre-show. Ms. Dobbs was born in a small, unpronounceble town know for cheese and her career careened about the U.K. She almost made it into the Spice Girls; her stage name would have been “Spice Rack.” That says a lot about the show – sexy, silly, and always backed up by a sly “nod nod, wink wink.” Her dream of becoming a Bond Girl sublimated into a stack of parody songs like “Someone Does It Better” and “No Job is Forever.” She opened with “God Save the Queen;” we all rose and acted uncomfortable and even a family there for dinner with the kids stood up from their falafel and kabobs to honor HRH. Between obscure tunes “Lilac Wine”, “Let’s Do the Strand” and “Lambeth Walk” we heard Brexit jokes and Pierce Brosnan stories. Backing here was the slick and funny John Mason; the pair worked with noisy ambiance, a muddy audio mix and Dobbs’ sultry look filled the space with the biggest cabaret audience I’ve seen in this Longwood venue. Hands down, Ms. Dobbs remains one of Orlando best voices and hottest singers.

For more information on events at The Persian Room please visit www.alibabahouseofkabob.com/events

Wanzie’s Ladies of Eola High Seas

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Wanzie’s Ladies of Eola High Seas
By Michael Wanzie
Directed by Kenny Howard
Florida Theatrical Association
The Abby, Orlando, FL

Michael Wanzie’s usual flamboyance and silliness slides into a darker story line tonight; and this installment of the ”Eola Heights” series is arguably his best. Sisters Pearl (Beth Marshall) and Opal (Peg O’Keef) squabble; Opal is a Mary Kay megastar while Pearl has a thing about the poker table. Their third sister Ruby (Blue Star) married the family head shrink Dr. Burrows (Kevin Kelly) and soon they are adrift on a Disney cruise and things head downhill rapidly. Ruby and the doctor are on the outs; he’s in love with everything Disney and is a creepy Kid That Never Grew Up. Ruby is annoyed at him and the world in general as Pearl jones for a lotto ticket; Opal just laughs everything off with another umbrella drink. It’s just normal Eola family dysfunction until the not-so-good doctor makes a slip and we learn that even on a Disney Cruise there’s a brig down there somewhere. Best of all: when things get too serious with the sisters the versatile Sam Singhaus appears as every Disney female lead from Snow White to Cruella De Vil. He actually gets the best numbers; all those years of lip-syncing pay off tonight. If you see the show and don’t get all the jokes that just means you’ve never sailed on a mouse infested boat, and neither have I. But even with all these inside gags there’s enough solid acting and storytelling to float anyone’s boat.

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

Diary of a New York City Nanny

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

Diary of a New York City Nanny
Featuring Kelly Morris Rowan
Spotlight Cabaret
July 14, 2016
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

If you can make it in Orlando, I guess you can make it anywhere in Central Florida. But Ms. Rowan started out with bigger dreams; she moved to NYC like so many other starry-eyed youngsters. There she hit the pavement on Broadway yet found her biggest success as a nanny to the offspring of the rich and famous. Tonight’s collection of songs and stories takes us back to her early years. She begins with “New York, New York” and ends somewhere on the “Voices of Liberty” stage at Epcot. Ms. Rowan does not lack high level skills; she just blames her New York career miss on the mass of talented competition, many of whom were thinner, younger, and perhaps even better looking, although I think that might be a stretch. She tells us some clean Renaissance Faire stories then gives us “On the Other Side of the Tracks,” “The Girl in 14G,” and “What More Do I Need?” which made up the bones of the evening; tales of small children and their obsession with Disney lyrics gave us the paint and paper. Ms. Rowan’s a gem, she has a twinkle in her voice and loads of stage charm that’s even warmer face to face.

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

Urinetown: The Musical

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Urinetown: The Musical
Book Greg Kotis
Music by Mark Hollman
Lyrics by Mark Holloman and Greg Kotis
Directed by Jamaal K. Solomon
Musical Direction by Angelyn Rhode
Starring Aladdin Jesse Demps and Meghan Beck
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

If Breakthrough Theatre has a signature move, it’s a cast of 23 all dancing, all singing and all emoting actors navigating a postage stamp stage. And if they’ve ever hit a high water mark for showmanship it’s this blistering rendition of “Urinetown,” a show with a definite mixed message about the role of Corporate America in the modern world. Water is scarce; perhaps it’s global warming, perhaps it’s fracking, perhaps it’s Wall Street malfeasance. But in any event we have a bladder pressing problem everyone shares: A place to pee that won’t get you sent to the dread Urinetown. Bobby Strong (Demps) works at Public Amenity #9; his boss Penelope Pennywise (Eryn Malafronte) hold the line against free pee; her policy of pay first or forever hold your back pressure makes countless citizens squirm. Officer Lockstock (Chad Cartledge) narrates and enforces the law in the shrubbery and alley ways. He’s a tough cookie and is so authentically despicable I thought he took real OPD training to prepare for this role. Lastly there’s the still innocent Hope Caldwell (Beck); she’s in line to take over the reins of “Urine Good Company” board. That is, until she meets Bobby.

There’s a deep, glowing bowl of good work here: it starts with the vast physical difference between the leads Bobby and Hope, then continues with the brilliant dance number arranged by choreographer Rhodes, and it’s all flushed clean by the solid direction and overall traffic management skills of Jamaal Solomon. Bobby stands tall and wide and believes in actual sympathy while Hope is small and frail but takes on a huge enemy: Her evil corporate raider and father Caldwell B. Caldwell. He certainly is a cad, and he’s clad in the armory of the only profitable operation in the world. While the show stands firmly on anthems like “Urinetown” and “It’s A Privilege to Pee” there are even better specialty numbers. “Run Freedom, Run” stands out as a gospel number nailed home by actual sinners and led by an astonishing Mr. Demps. Cladwell’s cold hearted “Don’t Be the Bunny” sums up the subtext and riffs off “Les Misérables” and “West Side Story” populate the show. Some humor arises from the script and the rest bubbles out of director Solomon’s brain. A powerful supporting cast included Aja Grooms’ Little Sally as the commentator and Chris Scilliano’s Hot Blade Harry as the tough guy who never stops to think. Only Senator Fipp is weak; Derek Antoniazzi overplays him to the point of surpassing what’s believable on the musical stage. But never mind that fuss; hurry down to see it as seats are small and few. And here’s my take away: I’ll go out on a critical limb and just say this: The Best Orlando Musical of the past year.

For more information, please visit http://www.breakthroughtheatre.com or look them up on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Breakthrough-Theatre-of-Winter-Park/

The World Goes ‘Round

Friday, July 1st, 2016

The World Goes ‘Round
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman, and David Thompson
Directed and Choreographed by Mayme Paul
With Lauren Abel, Nick Drivas, Hayley Scott, Jenny Totcky and Benjamin Walton
Theatre UCF, Orlando FL

It’s the middle of summer, and no time for a heavy drama. That makes this lighthearted musical review of Kander and Ebb songs a nice sorbet; it’s got all the sweetness and light of summer without the heavy drag of your winter coat, assuming you owned such a thing here in Central Florida. An ensemble cast sings all these songs; the artist roster rotates as there are several nonconsecutive runs spread out through August. With over thirty tunes you’re sure to hear a few you love but note the first act runs well over an hour. The set feature concentric rings of color changing LEDs; it reminded me of the old “Time Tunnel” TV show. “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” bemoans the rapidity of modern life. Mr. Drivas leads us on the great junk food number “Sara Lee” and later chases a follow spot for a touching “Mr. Cellophane.” There’s a preponderance of slow introspective numbers here: “My Coloring Book,” “I Don’t Remember You”, and “Colored Lights” slow us down while “Ring Them Bells” and “The Rink” and “Pain” bring us back up. While everyone was solidly on key and off book there was a low energy to this production; I heard these are underclass men and woman and the more senior students were off doing summer stock in the Berkshires. But my only real complaint was the very odd arrangement of “Cabaret”; it was a modem jazz based arrangement that just felt weird. But with plenty of other songs to groove to, this is a “workable” issue. And the auditorium is fully air conditioned!

For more information on Theatre UCF visit http://www.theatre.ucf.edu