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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for January, 2017

Best of Broadway 2006-2010

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Best of Broadway 2006-2010
Directed by Wade Hair
Musical direction By Angela Rhode
Choreography by Angela Cotto
Breakthrough Theater
Winter Park, FL

Time marches on, both on Broadway and in Winer Park. “The Best of Broadway” series is getting dangerously close to the modern day and perhaps in a few months it will plunge into the future and give us songs that have yet to be written, never mind having the time to chart. The latter days of the 2000’s produced a strong flock of musical hits; let’s take a quick spin past the highlights of these highlights. First off, this cast has the best dance moves of any “The Best of Broadway” collections thanks to Angela Cotto’s choreography. Some of the best musical material came in Act One where we opened with a “Jersey Boys” medley. Here the dashing Zachary Smith flirted with the front row ladies and made the guys jealous. Later Saige Love gave us a heart wrenching “I’m Here” from “The Color Purple”. There were almost two dozen performers on stage at times; the collective nearly stomped the place down with “Mary Poppins” big hit “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The ensemble did “Mama Who Bore Me” from “Spring Awakening;” this one took some tears out of us all. Act One wrapped up with some material from “In the Heights;” here Hector Sanchez took the stage and showed us how to be Spanish in America today.

Act Two was spottier. “Cum on Feel the Noize/ Nothing But A Good Time” from Rock of Ages was OK for a rock anthem but clearly no one in the cast had ever seem Noddy Holder sing. “9 To 5” did well; here Niashia Aviles, Stephanie Cruzado and Mellissa Smith showed us the slavery of the working world. “Next To Normal” offered up “You Don’t Know / I’m the One” with Ms. Cotto, Wade Hair and Hector Sanchez belting it out with gusto. We closed with another slam dunk medley; “Memphis” produced “Big Love” sung by Jamaal Solomon, “Memphis Lives in Me” with Zackery Smith and an ensemble blow out “Don’t Steal Your Rock and Roll.” These cabarets are always good fun; its Musical Theater’s Greatest Hits and just about any show, no matter how big it flopped, has one decent tune lurking in it. Anyone remember “Steel Pier”? Of course not, but I’ll bet you’ve heard “Everybody’s Girl.” Look it up.

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/

Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
By Steve Martin
Directed by David Russell
Starring Robert Johnson and Wesley Slade
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando FL

Third time’s a charm for me; I’ve seen this script twice before and missed hearing many laughs but tonight this show hits on all comedic cylinders. It’s just another night in a Belle Époque Parisian dive in Montmartre. The Lapin Agile hosts artists and writers; it’s a good place to find absinthe, romance and heated discussions over things most people don’t care much about. Albert Einstein (Slade) drops into meet his girlfriend The Countess (Lily E Garnett) at a different bar. This is odd as Einstein never did accept the Uncertainty Principle. Tonight he’s still working on that relativity thing but kindly spares us the Tensor math. Other members of this hemi- semi-demimonde drop in: Suzanne (Sarah Lockard) seeks out the dashing Picasso (Johnson), art dealer and raconteur Sagot (Glen Gover) wanders in to flash the free Matisse he scored, and Charley Schmendiman (Benjamin Smith) comes in to brag about how smart he is. Presiding over the show and speaking directly to the audiences we have Freddy (Joe Llorens) and his wife, mistress and barmaid Germaine (Sarah French). Lastly, there’s no Green Fairy, just the prostate fairy guarding the men’s room Gaston played by Tommy Keesling.

So why are we all here? That question leads to a spirted talk back with the consensus landing somewhere between “Art is a Science” and “Science is an Art”. Slade’s Einstein felt cocky and confident; this was a man who knew something profound but hadn’t completely explained it to the world yet partly because he had the yeoman’s task of coming up with a new branch of higher math. Art made Johnston’s johnson horny; while recharging he cranked out art so fast we still haven’t found it all. Smith’s Schmendiaman looked sharp in his matching plaid coat, vest and pants; he was vaudeville personified and shows up a key element of fame. Picasso and Einstein did something new and documented it; but if all you do is make a pile of money the best you can hope for is your name on a building or a financial crisis. The females mostly stuck to the ingénue roles. It’s pure sex, and if that sex involves a famous dude, so much the better. Sarah French’s Germaine has seen it all, Sarah Lockard’s Suzan wants to see more of it, and the Female Admirer (Karie Ford) is eager to buy tickets to the next show. How do you get women? Martin teaches: Get famous first.

As comedies go, this one explores far out on the “why are we all here?” axes. True, there are jokes and gags and spit takes (or there ought to be) but deep down Martin examines both our place in the universe and “What does it all mean?” vs. “Bartender! Another round plus some jaeger shots!” This is a challenging play and the comedy on the page quite fragile. Thanks to comedy mega-director Dave Russel, this show is in good hands and delivers on the promise one expects from a wild and crazy Steve Martin script.

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

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
By Roger Bean and Jon Newton
Directed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse
Winter Park, FL

Why DO fools fall in love? Some sort of biological imperative, I suppose, but that’s not as much fun as watching them do it, over and over. Tonight we visit the not-that-swinging 60’s. Formica panels and avant-garde wall hangings define the space, over permed hair and loud dresses define the fashions. While wedding bells rings for Millie (Heather Kopp) there are rumors about the groom’s fidelity. Unfortunately the actual wedding is now in the handles of mom and an aunt and dammit, it’s going to be perfect! At t-minus 3 days, all Millie’s friends come over to celebrate with cupcakes and Tang margaritas. There’s slutty Sally (Allyssa Yost), shy Florence (Noel-Marie Matson) and ditzy Dee-Dee (Molly Jackson). They are full of advice and tequila, and Millie is in a bind. Stick it out so the parents can brag about the quality of the hor d’orves, or face reality and destroy the post war ideals of sexual relations in a modernizing universe? I’ll say this: this living room is no bastion of radical feminism.

With a deeper than normal plot line this girl’s show of dealing with unsteady fidelity is packed with great vintage songs, and not all of them are from the all-hit radio canonized playlist. Heart breakers include “Hurt So Bad” and “Goin’ Out of My Head” but then we hit obscurities like “I Stand Accused (Of Loving You)” and “Untrue, Unfaithful (That Was You)”. An anachronism slips in; Elvis Costello co-wrote “God Give Me Strength” in 1998 but it fits with in the mid-sixties material that paints the musical back drop.

Ms. Kopp is the perfectly rationalizing perma-victim; when her friends point out her man has been seen in public with another woman, she rationalizes instantly and says “they’re just friends…” Ms. Yost finds herself on a cusp; while she sees the most men they all treat her as if she sees the most men, and her reputation keeps just ahead of her honor. Ms. Matson’s the ugly duckling but has the best chance of a happy future if she can only get over her shyness for one short hour. And while Ms. Jackson often comes across as whiney, she finds the best comic moments. Example: she put olives on her fingers, admires them, then eats them and has to dry mouth through her next lines. The singers are as superb as always, the microphones are bit hot, and drama intense by WPPH standards, but this show hits the hits, dodges the easy tropes, and put up some interesting and unusual music while never straying from approved feel good roots.

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

Ben Franklin: An Ingenious Life

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Ben Franklin: An Ingenious Life
Created and Performed by Ray Flint
Presented at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre

“Sometimes opportunity knocks more than once,” and that sums up the life of America’s first true polymath, Ben Franklin. Today’s youth knows him best for his work on the $100 bill, but in his lifetime he was a printer, a political activist and a major technology innovator in a land that still feared Indian attacks. Like all good one man evenings, Ray Flint has the middle aged, successful build we associate with Franklin. He’s done his research and knows about as much as one can about this man who would be 311 if he were alive today. Interesting factoid: Franklin was the youngest son of a youngest son going back 300 years. Well, someone has to do it.

We meet Mr. Franklin in his study at the Santos Dantin Theatre space; here he discusses his childhood, the misery of being indentured to his older brother and beaten regularity as an act of brotherly love. He became good at printing and better at writing; his letters to the editor were anonymous yet well received. He ended up as the biggest print shop in Philadelphia, and after he retired in his 40s he took up politics. London and Paris were his preferred postings; he was the colonial agent to the Crown for the colonies of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Georgia. When the Unites States came to be he badgered the French government to support the colonies with troops and skillfully used an age-old European grudge to our favor.

As Franklin, Flint keeps us on our toes and he clearly holds more anecdotes than will fit in to an already lengthy 90 minute evening. Unlike many one person shows there’s an intermission; it’s a risky business in these days of short attention spans. After the show Flynt hangs around (out of the heavy wig and constraining waistcoat) to answer historical and not so historical question about himself and this project. This is the sort of history we can all enjoy: enlightening, bright, and no scary essay questions on the test.

For more information on Mr. Flint’s show, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/FlyntPlay/

The Toxic Avenger Musical

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Toxic Avenger Musical
Created by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro
Directed by Jay Levy
Musical Direction by Theresa Smith-Levin
Choreography by Shawn Michael Lowe
Stage Manager: Sean Duncan
Starring Adam McCabe, Jillian Gizzi and Leesa Castaneda
Greater Orlando Actors Theatre
Presented at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre
Orlando, Fl

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a movie! It’s a comic book! It’s a musical! Or is that just the toxic cloud that hangs permanently over New Jersey, stinking up the west side of Manhattan? No, it’s one of America’s lesser known super heroes, Melvin Ferd the Third (McCabe). Or as we like to call him, “The Toxic Avenger.” Toxie came from the fertile and fetid mind of Lloyd Kaufman, impresario of Troma Films. This was back in the “Direct to VHS” days, and quirky little comedies like this were everywhere. But Toxie has stood the test of digital time, and tonight we see why.

Melvin is picked on and tortured by Bozo and Slug (Adam Delmedico and Daniel Martinez). They eventually toss him in a vat of toxic waste that evil mayor Babs Belgoody (Castaneda) agrees to store in exchange for the big bucks. Melvin climbs out of the tank dripping eyeballs and smelly special effects and his only romantic hope is cute but blind Sarah (Gizzi). Toxie fights environmental disaster, Castaneda doubles as his Italian / Jewish over-the-top mom, and the dynamic duo of DelMedico and Martinez quick change into everything from rock starts to cops to the least convincing drag queen I’ve ever seen.

Behind the action is a 5 piece band lead by Smith-Levine. It’s the only overall weak spot here; the sound is rock concert loud and the cast mikes are turned up to compensate, leading to a blasting, ear splitting evening in this rather small theater. There are some cool songs; “Hot Toxic Love” rocks as does DelMedico on guitar for “The Legend of Toxic Avenger” and the ballad “I Promise” ties the story together. For all the campy costumes and fast changes, deep down this is a traditional love story and a traditional musical. It just aims for camp and sets the volume at 11. A toned down backing band would give these excellent entertainers a better chance to show off their voices along with the music and the gags that permeated this campy classic.

For more information on Greater Orlando Actor’s Theatre, please visit http://goatgroup.org//

Oh, The Places I’ve Been!

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

Oh, The Places I’ve Been!
Natalie Cordon
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
January 12, 2017
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Looking for someone who’s been a few places? Natalie Cordone might be a good starting point. She first crossed my radar in ’04; back then she was the simply named “Girl” in “Roar of the Greasepaint.” About seven years ago she took the bold step of leading the WPPH Spotlight cabaret series and put herself on stage with just a sparkly dress and a piano player. The series began with great trepidation but almost immediately acquired a track record of routine sell outs. Ms. Cordone returns; tonight she’s full of traveling stories and traveling songs.

Ms. Cordone covers the globe from “Girl from Ipanema” all the way back to London with Frederick Loewe’s “Street Where You Live.” There are plenty of stories; she got her butt pinched on the metro and she sang in an Italian piazza, and she has tackled the Louvre. Songs range from the funny and naughty “Everybody’s Girl” to the plaintive “Moon River” and right back to an urban love affair as “The Girl In 14G.” Behind her elegant black dress and over-the-top necklace we hear stalwart Chris Leavy and we look out on the decidedly un-romantic Orange Avenue. Outside is an avenue of broken dreams and missed parking spaces; indoors we jet across oceans. It’s the travelogue that makes you want to pack up and forget about miserable seating in coach and see the world.

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

Blackberry Winter

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Blackberry Winter
By Steve Yockey
Directed by Michael Dove
Starring Suzanne O’Donnell
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre
Orlando, FL

There are many ways to die, not all of which end up with a dead body. Vivienne (O’Donnell) witnesses the worst way; her mom in in assisted living and about to upgrade to full time nursing care. Alzheimer’s steals her soul, it snuck in one day and turned mom from a happy, funny lady to a scared rabbit incapable of any sort of useful decision. Mom is so lost, even her name is now missing it’s a tough gig here for both the actress and the daughter; O’Donnell is on stage nearly the entire time. She teaches us how to bake, how to proactively care for her mother in a heartless system, and how to save for the future using a creative swearing bank. In order to cope, she creates an incomplete creation myth of a White Egret (Mindy Anders) and a Grey Mole (Kody Grassett). Egret doesn’t want anyone to lose their happy memories. She volunteers to save the pleasant memories of all the forest animals in a wooden box safely buried down deep. Unbeknownst to her, Mole discovers the box, chews into it, and unintentionally destroys all the happiness in the forest just as those tricky Tau proteins eat away those delicious motherly memory of making a coconut cake.

While this is not a happy or easy piece, it’s a show that packs an emotional wallop delivered thought the simple path of “we’ve all known someone like that…” O’Donnell rises and falls on the rough seas of her mother’s slide; she’s exhausted on stage and off by the end of the night. Offsetting the harsh reality of her journey we have the forest animal to symbolize the route; somehow it’s easier to swallow bad news once it’s anthropomorphized into a soft fairy tale acceptability. The stage is simple; projections put us in the forest and underground and back in the living room of frustration. Thirteen unlucky small tables with individual props act as mile stones for the story. They shadow the idea that lucky ones go quickly in to that dark night while the unlucky ones try to remember their address. Death is tragic but quick; this exit is slow and worse than tragic.

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