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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for December, 2017

Annie

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Annie
Book by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Directed by Steve MacKinnon
Starring Lyla Tsiokos, Cami Miller, Schon McCloud
Garden Theater
Winter Garden, FL

The only real difference between this production and one in New York is these tickets cost less, and there’s plenty of free parking. You’ve read the comic strip, you’ve seen the movie, and you may well have seen this script before. (This is number three for me.) Annie (Tsiokos) lives in an orphanage slant sweatshop run by evil Miss Hannigan (Miller). It’s a typical slave labor job: the heat is off, the hours long and the chances of escape slim. But luck smiles and Annie is selected to spend the holidays with Oliver Warbucks (McCloud) who owns more property than God and the US Government combined. The depression rages but the Warbucks team lives in a luxury Annie comes to appreciate. Money can’t bring her long-lost parents back, but it does draw the scam artists. Oliver hires the FBI but then makes an ill-advised plea for Annie’s folks to come collect her and a $50k check on the radio. This draws Hannigan’s sleazy brother Rooster (Blake Aburn) and his floozie girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Grace Flaherty), and their greed gleefully brings down Ms. Hannigan.

So how good was this production? Stunning. Tsiokos played Annie, a tough kid who knew how to work the jailhouse system, Ms. Miller’s evil was superb; and she punctuated it with a ref whistle that made Sandy hide back stage. The energy between the two women felt like a real hatred, and that fired up the rest of the cast. Mr. Warbucks showed the tension between getting work done and attending to small children, and Aburn’s Rooster switched easily between swaggering schemer and pathetic con man. On the supporting list we have the gorgeous and efficient hyper-secretary Grace Farrell (Trisha Jane Wiles), the rotund FDR (Bob Brandenburg), and my favorite head butler Drake played by A. J. Garcia. All this fit onto a cleverly lit stage that shifted quickly and seamlessly as every object was on wheels ready to dance on and off. And as to Sandy, I was looking for more of a fox terrier, but this Sandy was a blissed out Golden retriever that never wandered off or chewed on anything. Yeah, this is a feel-good chestnut, but the acting and production values are as good as anything you’ll see on the Broadway tour. Season’s greetings to Mr. McKinnon and his choreographer Spenser Morrow for nailing this project!

For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit www.gardentheatre.org

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told
By Paul Rudnick
Directed Ensemble
Starring Brett McMahon, Tripp Karrh, Sara Jones, Camila Camilo
Footlights Theater
Orlando, FL

Looking for drama? Backstage at the Footlights is my go-to spot for fraught interpersonal conflicts, but tonight the show did go on. This Paul Rudnick script originally opened the Footlights as a legitimate stage 16 years ago, and it’s still a brutally funny vehicle of gags, social commentary and fun. The two acts are only loosely tied together but hold a common theme: the Christian Right isn’t always correct. Act One presents a gay parody of the key bible stories from creation to Bethlehem and explores “What if Eden WAS staffed by Adam and Steve (Brett McMahon and Tripp Karrh)?” It’s plausible; the pair discover the world and each other as a bored stage manager (Beth Marshall) calls the light cues. According to the script we get 250 plus light changes, but who’s counting? Oh, yeah. The Stage Manager is counting. The guys are happy until the lesbians wander in. Jane and Mabel (Sara Jones and Camila Camilo) know how to use tools and publicize justice; when the guys get them evicted it’s up to the gals to keep the lights on. And we are off to tour the old testament from here to the Nativity.

Act Two moves to a modern NYC apartment where Adam and Steve prepare for Christmas. Their eccentric friends fill the apartment and we meet the hyper chipper Mormon (Melanie Leon), the burned-out Santa (Doug Bowser), and the Twink (John Ryan). Jane is pregnant and gives birth (off stage, thank you Jesus!) and then everybody decides to get gay married by the disabled Rabbi Sharon (Jessica Hoehn). While the motivations are often weak, and the cultural references dated (Olivia Newton John? Really?) there’s plenty of room for laughs. Doug Bowser led the way, first as the exceptionally flamboyant Pharaoh and in the second act as a one-liner machine sitting on a chair and getting nearly every gag to pull a laugh. McMahon’s Adam leads the skeptical faction. In act one he argued rationally (always a party killer strategy) while Steve played Dora Explorer and, always asking “why” to the point of losing paradise. Ms. Jones had the butch role and got things built while yelling at everyone; Ms. Camilo’s Mabel played the space cadet and the world’s first Unitarian. That’s leaves us with one big philosophical question: just who and where is God? Only Beth Marshall can answer that: it’s the stage manager. She can turn the lights out any old time she wants and speaks with a booming resonance. Now that’s a super power worth having.

For more information on shows at the Footlights Theater, please visit http://www.parliamenthouse.com/footlight-theatre/

Archikulture Digest is moving!

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

In the next few days, Archikulture Digest will migrate from its present location at http://blogs.ink19.com/archikulture/ to the front page of Ink 19 www.Ink19.com. This is due to some technical updates to the Ink19 website, but it will better integrate our Central Florida Theater coverage with Ink19’s extensive music and film coverage. All the existing blog postings to date will still be available and their links will update to reflect new URL. If you follow Carl F. Gauze’s Archikultural Digest, please update your bookmarks to the Ink19.com location. If you have questions, please contact us via “Carl F. Gauze” in Facebook.

Ink19 was founded 25 years ago as a monthly print vehicle covering the music scene around Melbourne, FL. It focused on live concerts and contemporary music release, but it also covered film, books, and other events. In 2000 Ink19 dropped its print format and moved to the new, exciting, and trendy “Internet.” Staff writers were asked to suggest on-line columns, and since the term “blog” did not exist, we called them “Columns” and they used the now familiar “top newest, bottom oldest” blog structure. Later these columns moved to WordPress which did allowed the post specific links you know and love.

As to the title, ” Archikulture Digest” punned on the magazine ” Archikulture Digest.” The name choice remains regrettable; no one gets the joke, it’s hard to say and impossible to spell. While the burden of bad humor will evaporate, the commentary will remain the same: Notes and comments on the latest theater events from the vibrant Central Florida art scene.

Who Killed Santa?

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Who Killed Santa?
By Neil Haven
Directed by Winnie Wenglewick
Dangerous Theater
Sanford, FL

I didn’t know the guy was even sick, never mind dead. Even the North Pole has its holiday parties, and tonight Santa (Wenglewick) started early. Soon the guests show up: Tiny Tim (Julian Seppala), Rudolph (Lars Carlile), Frosty (Logan Blake), Steve, The Little Drummer Boy (), and the new girl “Chastity” (Megan Markham). Even the tooth fairy knocked, but Santa wouldn’t let her in, she’s just not seasonal enough. There’s drinking, there’s innuendo, and there are pranks like giving Frosty a hot chocolate. Amazingly, people even drink Zima. Where the heck do you get ZIMA today? Well, like any wild celebrity party things get out of hand and what do you know? They kill the old gifter. Detective Wenglewick appears, does some investigating, and then ends up on the body pile herself. This no way to celebrate the holiday and everyone has a motive and an opportunity: Rudolf’s sexuality, Drummer Boy’s poor sex life, Frostie’s loose connection to the seasonality all give reasonable doubts, but we still have a body to explain to the North Pole Police. After an hour of gags and weird jokes, it’s time to get all Sluthie and have the audience pick the criminal. I could give away the ending, but it will change next time, so you take your chances. It might even be YOU.

The show is goofy fun; bad jokes land and sometimes splat as the holiday icons reveal their conventional elaborate back stories. Many of the jokes are a bit off color, so beware of bringing children unless they are old enough to stab Santa themselves. The laugh lines are frequent, even as the cast seems to freeze from time to time. Be aware if you sit in the front row, you may be recruited as an elf, but even if not, you will be required to wear an elf hat. There’s a big slug of stuff happening at Dangerous this month and it’s largely aimed at the less traditional audience, and most nights have two shows running early and late. Check their calendar, and check out the alternate holiday backstories.

For more information on Dangerous Theatre, please visit DangerousTheatre.com/. Please note Dangerous Theatre operates in both Sanford, FL and Denver CO.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

Monday, December 4th, 2017

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
Directed by Suzanne O’Donnell
Adapted by Joe Landry
Starring Duke Lafoon, David Edwards, Natalie Cordone, and Sarah French
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando, FL

It’s the season for roasting chestnuts, and this is certainly one of them. Shakes last did this script about 4 years ago, and while that’s a short recycle time, it just goes to show how hard it is to come up with a fresh seasonally heartwarming show. And this show isn’t even really ABOUT Christmas, it just sorts of lands there. By now you’ve seen this tale of good hearted George (Lafoon) who just can’t seem to ever get out, not even for WW2. Evil Mr. Potter (Edwards) seeks to take over this little town, and only George defies him by running a building and loan. Before these quaint institutions were run out of town by Goldman Sachs, they took local savings and lent them to local families for buying homes. Well, we can’t have THAT sort of foolishness, and while Potter schemes, George reluctantly helps people, raises a family, and generally acts as the gosh darn nicest guy in town. Everything falls apart when his bank loses $8k while being examined, and he’s so upset he’s about to jump off the bridge. It’s up to his guardian angel Clarence (Brandon Roberts) to save him.

I’ll say this: the radio play version gives this story a good bit more entertainment value. The multiple roles all the principals cover make sense (thanks to strong narration) and the multi-cultural air staff always entertains. Sound effects guy Melvin (Tyler Tanner) was particularly fun to watch as he stomped boots in gravel and argued with a garbage can. Mr. Edwards was not only a good Potter, but his three pack a day voice made for a great on air announce voice as well as the Chief Angel. Mr. Roberts got some meatier roles than he’s had here in the past; tonight, he voiced Clarence the angel and smoked a cigar. Ms. Cordone looked resplendent in her 40’s hat as she covered the tough gal roles while Ms. French led the way as Georges perfect wife. The preshow hustle had lobby girls selling 10 cent popcorn (but who carries cash anymore?) and the slightly anachronistic curtain speech dealt with the modern problem of people packing telephones everywhere. Some of us even got telegrams, complete with delivery by a guy in a stupid hat. This may be a seasonal re-run in a season devoted to re-runs, but its still personal enough to bring a tear to this old Scrooge’s eyes.

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

Paint A Tank #2: Military Mambo

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Paint A Tank #2: Military Mambo
Rokaya Mikhailenko
AHHA Dance
Presenting at Emotions Dance Studio
Casselberry, FL

They say you need to “sing loud and stuff” to end the war; but this group prefers to dance it away. Drinks were cheap and the crowd small and mostly theater insiders, but the performance was intriguing. Out in the hall, local sculptor and recycling wiz Doug Rhodehamel had a realistic tank sitting on display. He also hung a number of Tank cut outs in the hall to get us in a military mood. Dance mistress Rokaya Mikhailenko assembled a 40-minute program of movement and Avant Gard film, all with a subtle subtext of antiwar themes. The opening number took about ten seconds; a woman in a patriotic skirt marched out as the PA blared “War. HUH! What is it good for? Absolutely NOTHING!” Then silence. A short film followed (“Malfunction”) credited to the “Coby Project.” Here a woman struck poses in front of black and white landscapes over a synthesized sound track. Further numbers explore the plight of Mexican illegal immigrants (Clandestino), a unique music video for The Doors “Texas Radio”, and set of dancers as cats in “Pussy Grabs Back.” The highlight and namesake “Military Mambo” adds some afro Latin jazz courtesy of David Gabriel and we end up with Nikki Penna-Infande reciting the Pollinators Prayer in a piece called “The Bee.” Will the wars stop? Probably not, but you need to start somewhere. My only issue here is I wanted to see more Doug R.’s tank in the show. I’m sure it’s fragile, but like any good defense contractor he probably can make more.

For more information on AHHADance please visit https://www.facebook.com/ModernForTheMasses

Born Yesterday

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Born Yesterday
By Garson Kanin
Directed by Tony Simotes
Starring Jamie-Lyn Markos, Duncan Bahr, and Mark “Gary” Miller
Mad Cow Theatre
Orlando, FL

In politics nothing ever really changes except the names and the hair styles. Tonight, we find ourselves in post war Washington D.C. There’s big money in cleaning up the scrap metal left over from the European wars, but those silly anti-trust laws keep poor yet rotund Harry Brock (Miller) from getting an iron grip on the used iron trade. He runs some scrap yards here and there; he’s a lowbrow mogul with a business plan based on bribery and deceit. He and his air headed girlfriend Billie (Markos) move down to D.C. to bribe a few Senators, change a few laws and make some real money. There he meets investigative journalist Paul Verral (Bahr) who reports on this sort of shenanigans. Paul agrees to make Billie more socially adept, and they naturally fall in love. He also fills her head with big words like “dictionary” and “constitution,” and while she’s no genius, it’s clear even to her that Brock is up to something fishy. Brock put all his businesses in her name to protect himself, but when she stops signing papers and starts reading them, his gig is up. Ans his drunken lawyer Ed Devery (Holland Hayes) points out “It’s the big targets they shoot at” and Brick is both physically and vocally enormous.

There’s nothing new under the sun, or so I’ve heard, and this story is not only a fast-paced screwball comedy, it’s a totally in sync commentary on the current political scene. Miller is constantly loud and ready to beat up anyone who stands in his way; the fine points of pollical discourse lie far afield form his world. Grease Senator Noval Hedges (Jim McClellan) looks like he’s straight off a campaign brochure, and Bahr remains unfailing polite as he dances circles around the lost in the weeds Harry Brock. But tonight’s clear winner by a landslide is the platinum blonde Ms. Markos. She nails the air headed moll character, complete with the street wise New York tough gal accent. Great supporting action on this gorgeous art deco set came from the too-rarely seen bellhop (Damany Riley) and drink fetching Eddie Brock in his dead-end kids hat. Its easy to laugh at these stereotypes, but only until you realize they are not one bit more over the top than real “leaders.” Vote for this party by buying a ticket; sometimes all we can do about disaster is laugh at it.

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

Daddy Long Legs

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Daddy Long Legs
Music and Lyrics by Paul Gordon
Book by John Caird
Based on a novel by Jean Webster
Directed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse
Winter Park, FL

This is NOT the Fred Astaire Musical from 1955, nor any of the other six similar sounding listings in IMDB. But it IS based on the 1912 Jean Webster novel most of those projects draw upon. Meet Jervis Pendleton (Larry Alexander); he has a kind heart but little close family. As compensation, he selects deserving orphans and sends them to college, all expenses paid. His choice this season is Jerusha “Judy” Abbott (Hannah Laird), the oldest orphan at the John Grier Home. I checked out Mr. Greir; he was a sharp shooter in the 1924 Olympics. Thus, he’s merely a literary device as this story begins in 1908. Pendleton pays full tuition, room and board and $30 a month for incidentals, a real fortune back then. The only catch? The recipient must write him a letter once a month, and never know his identity. But writing into the empty ozone is tough, so she chooses to call him “Daddy Long Legs.” Ooooookay…creepy…

But not creepy here, despite the odd premise this is a sweet love story with a happy ending. Jervis follows the letters, gradually grows to love Judy as he courts her through the odd method of never speaking to her. Judy grows up in college; new topics like Latin and romantic poems fill her mind. By her sophomore year she lords over the freshies, and she meets people with real money and fake personality. Eventually, Jervis approaches her under an assumed name, and this being Winter Park Playhouse, love is soon in the air.

There’s more plot here than a typical WPPH Main Stage show, and the house band is supplanted by a cellist. Tonight, songs like “The Color of Your Eyes” and “The Man I’ll Never Be” guide us along as we examine the social dynamics of the ultra-wealthy as they intersect with the nouveau semi-riche. The settings described are truly idyllic: a college program focused on the classics with no student debt looming, farms full of frolicking animals, and trips to Paris and Manhattan. Garnishing the entrée, we hear some radical commentary on how orphanages ought to be run. The romance is no easy path; Pendleton’s duplicitous actions are highlighted when Judy complains about Jervis’s actions to her supposed benefactor and pointing up his evil guyness. But love heals all, and even a jaded critic can shed a tear for this couple.

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

Sense and Sensibility

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Sense and Sensibility
By Kate Hamill
Based on a novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Marianne DiQuattro
Starring Anneliese Moon and Allison Furlong
Annie Russell Theater at Rollins College
Winter Park, FL

The pre-women lib world was so quaint. You either “Had” income or you starved, no woman dare not talk to man without an extensive escort, and a failed engagement often as not leads to poverty just as often a successful marriage leads to a life of abuse. Austen’s 1811 novel remains endlessly popular, and this is the second adaptation I’ve run across. This one is set on a fluid stage with every prop set on wheels or dropping from the fly loft. A cluster of Gossips watch every scene as overdressed voyeurs. Gossip was the coin of the financially endowed and the broke, but it really made a difference to the poor.

The Dashwood women are in a precarious position since daddy died leaving them in debt and on a slippery slope of social standing. His lands went to his first son John (Malakai Green) by marriage. John’s wife Fanny (Parker King) bitchily forbids him to help the other branch of the family leaving them only the option of selling themselves in marriage. The eldest daughters still have that bloom of youth with Marianne (Furlong) the more aggressive, more attractive girl. His sister Elinor (Moon) stays prim and proper, and everyone speaks in long, perfectly inflected sentences that are one step short of Shakespearian. Mother (Brianna Salvatori) makes endless pots of tea and the youngest Margaret (Robyn Perry) looks on longingly, hoping she, too can join in the desperate search for a suitable mate. The men are a motley lot as well. Edward Ferris (Josh Scott) only gets an inheritance if mom dies and he marries “suitably.” Colonel Brandon (Jonathan Garcia) is pleasant but old, and John Willoughby steals Marianne’s heart, but like all good Victorian leading men he’s sexy, broke and unstable.

The social details are more complicated than my last differential equations class, but there IS a happy ending to this relentless gossip fest. Scenic designer Molly J Finnegan-Pepe, (a truly wonderful name) keeps the endless scene changes flowing, and the supporting cast keeps them interesting. One character signs her roll; I like the idea, but it seems that would not really help the deaf follow this novel. Another issue is the lack of microphones; the lines were hard to hear in mid-audience, and there was often more ambient noise than necessary. But it’s a classic pre-Victorian novel and well-presented if you just let the hook-ups flow. The Gossips provide a clever commentary on the action: one indiscretion, one impolitic remark, and your social life may end. And this is 200 years before the internet; Facebook would have made their heads explode.

For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/current_season/index.html

I Have Dreamed: The Songs of Richard Rodgers

Friday, December 1st, 2017

I Have Dreamed: The Songs of Richard Rodgers
Featuring Larry Alexander
Musical Direction by Christopher Leavy
Additional Accompaniment by Ned Wilkinson
Spotlight Cabaret Series
November 29, 2017
Winter Park Playhouse
Winter Park, FL

I don’t think everything we heard tonight was the original lyric. But it still sounded great as we looked back to the blessed songwriting of Rogers and Hart and then Rogers and Hammerstein. These two composers set the standard for early and midcentury American standards, the songs they wrote when our grandparents dated still resonate today. We open with the old standard “Johnny One Note,” and I’m pretty sure both Mr. Alexander and pianist Chris (Never Hits a Bad Note) Leavy play way more than just that one note. There was a plug for another show buried in there; Mr. A is so slick you hardly even noticed it, and the subliminal message made me get a ticket for the other show he’s leading in the main stage production.

What really makes this cabaret stand out is the depth of background information. While we all remember Rodger’s great hits, his path to those hits is often rocky and circuitous. His duet with Hugger in Chief Heather Alexander takes us through the rocky development of hits like “Blue Moon”. And while most cabaret shows emphasize “Don’t sing along, just because you paid a sawbuck to see this show doesn’t mean you can sing” is transformed into a contrapuntal version of “Do-Re-Mi.” Always innovative, Mr. Alexander wrapped up by singing the encore before he left the stage; this saved us about 5 minutes in fiddle around time. This guy isn’t a regular here yet, but I think he’s got potential.

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