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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for August, 2016

I Dreamed A Role

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

I Dreamed A Role
Directed by Jay Levy
Musical Direction by Eric Walters
Jutes Productions and G.O.A.T.
Presented at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center
Orlando FL

Hope springs eternal, and a new theatre company is about to give the Orlando market a go. Jutes Productions teams up with the stalwarts at G.O.A.T. to put up this promising cabaret filled with an eclectic mix of show tunes, a few fabulous voices and some very odd staging. Andrew LeJeune (recently a supporting actor in “The Student Prince”) presented “Who Am I?” from “Les Miss” and a moving “If Ever I Would Leave You” from “Camelot”; another very strong performance came from Eric Fagin with his “Some Enchanted Evening” and a duet with Wyatt Glover in “Out There” from “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Desiree Perez skipped a song but Joined Mr. LeJeune for a number from “Wicked,” and Ally Gursky opened the show with a touching “A Night Like This.” Many of the songs were started or finished in the back of the room, this was awkward if you were sitting up front. And while the show was a fund raiser for the Pulse victims, the only song that really flamed was an ensemble cover of “Go West” by the “Village People.” There were over a dozen singers involved in the show, and nearly all of them were superb. The energy was high from the opener all the way through the closing “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from “Hairspray” and I’m looking forward to first full up production this January.

For more information on Jutes please visit https://www.facebook.com/Jutes-Productions-898677870260532

Big River

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

Big River
Music and Lyrics by Roger Miller
Book by William Hauptman
Directed by Steve MacKinnon
Musical Director John R. Mason III
Choreographed by Spencer Morrow
Starring Dustin Russell and Michael Mormon
Presented by St. Luke’s United Methodist Church
Windermere, FL

Turning a Great American Novel in to a Great Broadway Production is a tough job, but this massive show comes about as close as possible. Twain wrote “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” as the sequel to his wildly successful “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Twain transformed the maudlin and sappy fiction that filled the late 1800s; his characters were mischievous, alive, and skeptical of their received religiosity. Twain treated the black slaves as sympathetic humans and not just as the moral arguing points of abolitionists. Huck (Russell) lives with Widow Douglas (Julie Ohrberg) and the pious Miss Watson (Chelsea Scheid); his drunk Pap (Matt Stevens) ran off until he hears about the Indian gold Huck found. That brings Pap back like a shot but Huck wisely put the money in a trust; now Pap is furious. He drags Huck off to his remote cabin so he can beat the money out of him; there Huck fakes his own murder and escapes to hook up with runaway slave Jim (Morman). Down the river they go; meeting the refugees, hucksters and criminally amoral people that populated the frontier.

Mr. Russell carries this exceptionally long production, but he has plenty of support. Mr. Russell flips, handstands and spins around the multi-level set; I was front row left and never saw him sweat. Morman’s Jim spends most of the show looking over his shoulder, but when free of his chains he delivered heart wrenching songs like “Free at Last” and pairs up for duets including “Worlds Apart” and the show theme “River In The Rain.” Mr. Stevens sings the right wing anthem “Guv’ment” while Sage Starkey and Ken Rush played the scam artists working the river and mostly dodging the tar and feathers. Starkey is over the top fey and Rush blustery and imperious and together they are a great comic duo. A pack of slaves came on and off stage to deliver astonishing gospel music of hope; “How Blest Are We” and “Waiting for the Light to Shine” smoked. Off on one side of the stage John Mason directed a nine piece orchestra and on the other we heard a huge choir. No expense was spared tonight.

While this is a community production the staging impresses. The acting was top notch and in order to find a flaw I have to delve down into some minor lighting cues. The show runs three hours but never induces fidgets; and the material strikes out into some exciting and dangerous social territory. This being a church the story justification was careful explained by the pastor of St. Luke’s; she condemns child abuse. While there’s no question Pap Finn treated Huck with brutality, that’s not the theme here but a McGuffin to push Huck down river. The real theme this show explores questions whether sinning against unfair, inhuman laws is a damnable offence, or does Christ’s orders to “Treat others as you would be treated” override bad legislation? That’s left open, but Huck agonizes a good deal, Jim exits slavery with a Deus Ex Machina plot point, and we are all happy at the end. True, the sight lines are iffy, the air-conditioning noisy and windy, but this is worth the trip out to the speed trap side of town.

For more information please visit: http://www.st.lukes.org/event/auditions-st-lukes-summer-musical/

Godspell

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

Godspell
Book by John-Michael Tebelak
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Wade Hair
Starring Joseph Sikkema and Lucas Coura
Breakthrough Theatre
Winter Park, FL

They forgot to include St. Matthew on the credits, but I guess if you’re singing the Word of God that somehow falls under Public Domain. Two big musicals on this topic appeared in 1970: the gritty and humanist “Jesus Christ, Super Star” and this more happy-go-lucky hippy-dippy project. You’ve got the always enigmatic Jesus, here played by the clean cut and likeable Joseph Sikkema, and the Ché Guvara-looking Judas Iscariot (Coura). Backing them up are a flock of assorted disciples, both male and female. While the story roughly follows the three years’ ministry of Jesus, the focus of the show aims at his many parables, aphorisms and bits of advice about living a good and holy life. And just because people get confused; He mostly advised people to treat people as you would be treated, and not showing off your faith like it’s a 12 point buck you clocked with your pickup truck.

I slipped in a bit late, just in time to catch the wonderful “O Bless the Lord” belted out by Christina Noel. That was followed by a tin pan alley flavored “All for the Best” and Chad Cartledge’s rich vibrato filling the space with “All Good Gifts.” While Jesus sang superbly in “Beautiful City” he never seems terribly miraculous, and even Judas seemed broken up about having to rat out the J-man. Longtime Breakthrough favorite Angela Cotto did some excellent animal impersonations, and my favorite line tonight came from Judas: “SOMEONE has to be oppressed.” Another noteworthy performances came from Tommy Schwanfelder with his raccoon tail hat. This is a bouncy, family friendly show with great music, a very traditional message, and the most colorful clothing you’ve seen since Woodstock. Note there are two casts; this was the adult one but you might run into the children’s cast. Be blessed, this cast certainly is.

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/

Stop Kiss

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

Stop Kiss
By Diana Son
Produced and Directed by Molly Elizabeth Wuerz
Starring Fara Faidzan and Fabiola Rivera
Presented at Breakthrough Theatre
Winter Park FL

This 1998 play still had relevance; violence toward alterative human relations is still strong, even as it gets more positive publicity. Sara (Rivera) moves to New York; costs are high and neighborhoods iffy, but luckily she meets traffic reporter Callie. They quickly become friends; the friendship escalates to a budding relationship even as Callie stays close to jealous George (Josh Melendez), her former Friend With Benefits. Callie lives in Greenwich Village, and one night the pair go out to a lesbian bar to mingle and drink. At closing time they are dumped out on Bleecker Street where they are attacked. Callie gets off with bruises but Sara has her head bashed in and is now in a coma. Her family and ex-boyfriend Peter (BeeJay Aubertine Clinton) rally around her, but no one is happy about Callie’s existence.

In this well directed but awkwardly executed show we see a solid performance between the principles. The awkwardness as the two girls come close feels real. George is properly confused by it, and the Detective (Iris Johnson) remains strict and skeptical and blames Callie and Sara for the attack. Unfortunately, the show is unnecessarily extended due to constant set changes. While Mr. Clinton is a solid ex-boyfriend most of his acting skill goes into dragging a futon on and off stage: I counted eight entrance and eight exits for this trouper piece of furniture. Better to throw a blanket over it and ignore it than move it around. I believe this is Director Wuerz’s directorial debut; she’s got potential when it comes to handling actors but needs to cut back on the redecorating.

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

The Big Meal

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

The Big Meal
By Dan LeFranc
Directed by Mark Edward Smith
Starring Sarah French and Steven Lane
Mad Cow Theatre Company, Orlando FL

“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans;” thus spoke John Lennon. And its life and all its local crises that make this show so intimate. There’s a man (occasionally Steven Lane) and there’s a woman (often Ginger Lee McDermott). Then there are younger counterparts (Sarah French and Jeffery Todd Parrott). When not otherwise occupied they’re skulking on the banquette against the back wall. They meet, mate, and raise everyone’s children (Trevor Simoneau and Rebecca Schledwitz). Their respective parents (most often Shami J. McCormick and Peter W. Galman) approve, disapprove, gift gifts, and drink too much. Well, everyone is under a permanent haze of alcohol tonight although nothing Eugene O’Neill or Edward Albee worthy. But the story line isn’t the charm of tonight’s entertainment; rather it’s the clever distribution of roles among the cast.

We have three sets of actors at our disposal: older, middle aged, and younger couples rotate the roles from scene to scene as they are served by an uncredited “Waitress of Death.” As the story progresses each actor plays each stage of life; children appear, grow, and find their own loves and the life. Death is a part of life; Author LeFranc relies on a final meal to signify the end of a cycle for each role although as Mr. Lane gleefully revealed to me at the reception “I never have to eat!” Scenes are pared down to the bare minimum; more than once someone ages five years in a pause during a line. It takes a little while to figure this all out, but when you fall into this particular cycle of life, it’s a warm and wonderful experience.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com