A User-Driven Site for Theater in Atlanta, Georgia
Okely Dokely [ALL REVIEWERS]
Companies Reviewed#
Kudzu Playhouse14
The New American Shakespeare Tavern8
Onstage Atlanta, Inc.8
Aurora Theatre6
Holly Theatre5
Georgia Ensemble Theatre4
Stage Door Players4
Southside Theatre Guild3
Barnbuster Musicals3
Big Top Productions3
Kudzu Children's Theater2
Cobb Players2
Neighborhood Playhouse2
North Spings High School Drama Department1
Cobb Playhouse and Studio1
Theater of the Stars1
Atlanta Broadway Series1
Actor's Express1
Theatre in the Square1
Dad's Garage Theatre Company1
Atlanta Lyric Theatre1
Centerstage North Theatre1
South Forsyth High School1
Professional Tour1
Blackwell Playhouse1
Village Playhouses of Roswell1
Alliance Theatre Company1
O2 at Onstage Atlanta1
Centennial High School1
Kudzu Sprouts1
Rosewater Theatre Company1
Average Rating Given : 3.65385
Reviews in Last 6 months :

Little Shop of Horrors, by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken
left a bad taste in my mouth
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Note: this review was originally posted on May 7, 2004. I have just made a few subtle edits. I am posting this disclaimer in case theaterreview still has the annoying glitch where edited reviews re-set the date and bring the review back to the top.

The evening seemed promising enough at the beginning. I arrived in beautiful Fairburn in eager anticipation of my first visit to the Southside Theatre Guild. The space itself is awesome. It has very comfortable seats with stadium seating, and yet it manages to maintain an intimate feeling. About ten minutes until curtain, a �wino� stumbles his way onto the stage and onto a prop bench, all the while sounding like he�s about to cough up several lungs.

The show begins. No musicians � only pre-recorded music, and what I came to suspect to be the RehearScore enhanced to make it sound like a full-band. For it being my first time hearing it in this form, I didn�t know if I was listening to grocery store music, playing The Legend of Zelda, or watching an exercise video. �Feed Me� sounded like an over-produced Shaft remix. This music was all over the place, but very rarely was it good, and it made me realize that I�d rather have just one real musician playing than hear a full imaginary band. The plus side, though, was that no body mics had to be used, so with the exception of the volume going psycho during �Call Back in the Morning,� the sound balance was perfect. I got to hear the intricate harmonies during the big group numbers, and speaking of harmonies, the ensemble nailed the concept of harmony, while the leads got lost on theirs and often had to sing in unison, which is a shame, because I�ve always loved the vocal arrangements on �Closed for Renovation� and �Mushnik and Son.�

The two leads were played by a married couple who had always wanted to play Seymour and Audrey opposite each other, and are returning to the theatre in this production after a hiatus of almost a decade. I don�t know or claim to know the audition situation, and maybe they really were the two best people for the roles, but their performances were mostly sore thumbs, which made me not care for the characters that much. They each had a couple good moments, though: Dina Schwam wisely made her Audrey more of a Kerry Butler than an Ellen Greene, and even though �Somewhere That�s Green� didn�t have any special surprises in staging, she totally sold the number and made me want to go to that little development. Adam Schwam tended to overact, and crooned most of his �Meek Shall Inherit� solo when it was inappropriate to do so. �Suddenly Seymour� was surprisingly devoid of any sweetness and sincerity, and even though it was transposed down a half step, Mrs. Schwam still had to hit many of the high notes in her head voice.

The sets and lighting were nice, but nothing really exciting. I missed the in-your-face, out-of-the-box freshness and originality of South Forsyth High School�s recent Little Shop. The staging was dull and confusingly awkward, the energy was low, and most of the technical tricks were easy to spot. I could see [what looked like] Seymour giving signals to the actor manipulating the little plant during �Grow For Me,� something that looked like a script sticking out of the wings during the show (whatever it was, it shouldn't have been visible), and Audrey clearly moving despite the handicap of being dead. The plant looked great. It was the best plant I�ve ever seen in a live production, although I wish the head hadn�t stayed in its upright position (like the plant in the original 1960 movie) all through Act 1. It doesn�t make A2 that intimidating, and it does nothing to showcase any personality in the character. I didn�t expect a high school�s production to overshadow a community theatre�s production, but don�t it go to show ya never know?

The Fantasticks, by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt
nothing really Fantastick here
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Note: this review was originally posted on September 28, 2007. I have just made a few subtle edits. I am posting this disclaimer in case theaterreview still has the annoying glitch where edited reviews re-set the date and bring the review back to the top.

This was my second time attending a Southside Theatre Guild production. I hadn't been back since I saw their Little Shop of Horrors in the late spring of 2004. I found LSOH to be barely recommendable, but I thought most people would probably have a good time.

The Fantasticks, I'm sad to report, is a step down from LSOH. (For the record, the 2 rating I'm giving this is one of those generous "benefit of the doubt" ratings.) I was never enchanted, barely moved, and what are normally my favorite songs in the show are ones that I couldn't wait to be over. Let me mention a couple of positives, though. There were two things I appreciated.

1. Not only was there no curtain speech (for which I wanted to jump up and cheer profusely), but the show started at 7:59.

2. This is one of the few times I've seen a Matt and Luisa who actually looked the ages they are supposed to be in the script. Not that it makes much of a difference - I have been endlessly captivated by Matts and Luisas going up to 35 - but still, it was nice to have a couple of YOUNG young lovers.

There was no harp in the orchestra, but Becky Clark's competent piano playing made me forget about that very quickly. As El Gallo, Tommy McDaniel had by far the best singing voice of the cast, and was probably my favorite performance. He looks the part, even if he's starting to get a bit long in the tooth for El Gallo and wasn't as mobile as I would have liked to have seen in some parts. I think this is his 2nd time doing El Gallo, and his 3rd time doing The Fantasticks. I wish I would have seen his Bellomy in Atlanta Lyric's production in 2006.

Katie Robertson as Luisa had endearing facial expressions and adequate acting chops, which made it hard for me to look away from her even when somebody else had the focus. I enjoyed her dancing during her first solo ("Much More"). Her high notes are a little weak, though. It sounds like she's had a little bit of vocal training, and I'd recommend she continue with that. I felt bad for her when she couldn't think of the second verse to "They Were You" and had to skip to the last verse, cutting out about half the song and making the accompanist vigorously turn pages.

I'm sorry to say that I found Caleb Barrett's performance as Matt to be the biggest disappointment of the evening. He had a weak voice all around (often very pitchy), and his acting was very robotic and systematic, particularly his hand gestures during "I Can See It." His performance was consistently too casual; when he slays the abductors and saves Luisa (the love of his life!), he is no more excited than if he had found out he saved $2 on his groceries. Plus, him having a mustache wasn't appropriate for the role he was playing. I wish somebody involved with the production had asked him to shave. Kudos go to Katie for sticking with him no matter how far he strayed from his harmony on "Soon It's Gonna Rain," and extra kudos to Tommy for singing the high note at the end of "I Can See It" that was supposed to be Matt's.

Mickey Tierney as Hucklebee was probably trying to come off as deadpan, but instead just came off as monotonous and bland. He looked like he was concentrating enormously hard to not forget a line, lyric, or movement - so much so that I saw very little characterization or eye contact with his fellow actors. I have to give him props, though, for keeping his complex harmonies down, 90% of the time. Murray Weed as Bellomy seemed like he could have been Hucklebee's son. The age difference was a little jarring. And this doesn't have anything to do with the production, but there was a strange mistake in his bio in the program that I can't believe nobody caught. He apparently appeared in a production of "Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum."

As Henry, Keith Williams was a physical type that reminded me more of Mortimer than Henry, but still, he did what he could. Also doing what he could, despite having never acted before, was Kent Richardson as Mortimer. Carey Barrett as the Mute was fine, though I didn't understand why he was passing out sharpies and "Hello My Name Is" stickers before the show. I declined to fill one out and put one on.

The director, David Califf, seemed to do what he could overall. I appreciate that he kept the blocking to "I Can See It" simple. The one and only thing I hated about the Shakespeare Tavern's Fantasticks was that ICSI was choreographed, rather than just blocked by the director. El Gallo and Matt were dancing their asses off in that number, and all I could think of was Roxie and Velma. But back to STG's production: El Gallo drumming on the keyboard during "This Plum is Too Ripe" looked weird. That's the kind of thing the Mute should have done instead. Also, though I liked that the keyboard was turned off by a cast member after the bows in a "enough already" moment, but that also should have been done by the Mute and not El Gallo.

I'm sorry, STG. You have a beautiful theater in a beautiful place, but I didn't feel like my favorite musical was done justice.

Rent, by Jonathan Larson
I had to see it to believe it.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I have to admit, with no disrespect intended, that not only was I skeptical about the Kudzu Playhouse doing Rent, the "Rent at Kudzu" thing was something of a recurring joke for several years now. Now, in 2010, it's a reality, and while Wally Hinds wasn't playing Angel, nor was Jeannie Hinds playing Mimi (as I used to joke), this was a spectacular production for all to be proud of. I left the theatre perked up and invigorated. Kudzu doesn't have to stay in safe Neil Simon/Steel Magnolias territory all the time - they can do just as well if not better with the Rents and Blood Brotherses they do on occasion.

I'm happy that I finally got to see Andy Meeks in the role that put him on the American musical theatre geek map, since I didn't get to see him when he toured with it in 2004 and 2005 (grin). Not only was he wonderful, but I was impressed with the professionalism and respect that seemed to waft from the performance. Since he's used to playing the role in the national tour, I was afraid his performance would be too "big" for such a small stage, but he was so generous and respectful with the focus. He didn't make himself the star. There was no star. He did a tremendous job - as both actor and director - understanding the concept of "ensemble."

Justin Miskin as Roger was a breath of fresh air after seeing a couple of grumbly-vocaled, roid-raged Rogers in a row. (The less said about Constantine Maroulis as Roger, the better.) Miskin has a baby face, and brought out some of the meek loneliness we rarely see in portrayals of Roger. I appreciated that he could actually play the guitar. My only criticism about him is that his jump up to the unexpected high note of his last "Mimi" in Your Eyes was unnecessary, jarring, and caused some unintended laughter from the audience. But I've always thought Your Eyes was one of the weakest songs in the show. Kind of ironic when you think that it's the song he's been agonizing over for a year. After an incredible buildup, we finally hear it, and it sounds like a B-side at best.

Spencer Stephens as Tom Collins was fine. He seemed a little miscast, but was not bad by any means. He's obviously a tenor trying to James Earl Jones himself into some bass notes, and since he's also the Music Director, some of the songs he was singing in on stage musically fell by the wayside, particularly the first "I'll Cover You." There are tons of awesome 2-part harmonies in the song, most of which were non-existent. Hearing all that unison and missed opportunities was a bit frustrating (and curious).

Takara Clark as Mimi and Antonio Daza as Angel executed some impressive choreography, but got pretty out-of-breath on their respective solos (Out Tonight and Today 4 U). Still they were fun to watch and I wonder how much of that choreo was relayed by Meeks or created by credited choreographer Anna Galt. Great job whoever it was.

I cannot praise Emily Sams as Maureen and Ardale Shepard as Joanne enough, so I won't say much for fear of sounding cliche. But wow wow wow. Probably the best Maureen and Joanne I've ever seen. They had me locked in from the very beginning, and that was the most fierce "Take Me Or Leave Me" ever.

The sound balance was great for the most part, but a warning: if you sit in the right aisle, bring an earplug for your right ear. If you sit on the left aisle (as I did), bring an earplug for your left ear. In other words, try to sit in the middle. I was painfully close to the audience-left vocal speaker. I appreciate that the band played softer when soloists were singing, but in the parts where many people are singing but one person is featured (like Roger's last verse in "Another Day" or Mark's "anyone in the mainstream" bit in "La Vie Boheme), the featured person's mic needs to be bumped up or everyone else bumped down. And if I couldn't hear it being so close to the speaker, then the smart people who sat in the middle definitely couldn't hear it. Also, "Over the Moon" is practically a capella, so there's no need for so much amplification of Emily's vocal. Lastly, they could stand to turn down Eric Bragg's mic just a smidge on all the "Christmas bells are ringing" parts, because when he comes in with his harmony, he's drowning out the first person singing the melody and everyone who comes in after him.

All in all, wonderful production, but it frustrates me that Kudzu doesn't step out of their productive bubble more often, because they CAN do it. And I'm sorry I ever doubted them.

Yo Hindses, could Wicked and Miss Saigon at Kudzu be far behind?

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield
Call me Butt Love
Friday, August 14, 2009
This was my second time seeing CWWC at the Tavern (or anywhere). Saw it in 2007. I unfortunately missed it the year Mr. McKerley was in the cast, but I enjoy Andy Houchins. Just as much of a fearless goof willing to try anything on stage, and usually succeed.

Maybe it was the typical Thursday night crowd, or the fact that I've already seen the production before with the same cast at the same theater with about 95% of the same gags, but it took a little while for it to gather steam and momentum. The start felt slow. But they were up to the wonderful standard I remember by the time they got into the R&J sketch.

When I saw this 2 years ago, I was in the front row, stage right, house left (the "maybe, maybe not" section for those in the know). This time around, I was in one of the box sections on the floor (Section B - "paint an inch thick"). Paul Hester delivers his first lines in the show from the audience. I could hear him just fine in 2007 because of where I was, but was behind him this time and almost completely lost what he was saying. Project, Mr. Hester, so nobody is left out. I know you can do it.

Overall, this was consistently as good as the last time, with an impressive amount of talent and energy from all 3 men. My favorite bits were the Othello rap and the MacB*** part (though Tony Brown has been misquoting Fat Bastard. The accurate line is "I'm dead sexy," not "damn sexy" as Tony's been saying.)

This show was certainly good enough to recommend, and I'll see it again if they do it again, but next time I'll try to go on a night with a larger and livelier crowd, because they really are an extra character in a show like this.

I Do! I Do!, by Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt
The Last 35 Years
Thursday, November 20, 2008
This was my second time seeing a production of IDID, and I forgot how little I care for the music. This may just fall into the "if I give it time and repeated listenings, it'll grow on me" pile, but I found most of the music forgettable, and some of it downright annoying. It's hard to believe this music was written by the same guys who did The Fantasticks - my favorite musical ever. The dialogue is so cogent and captivating, but then the show screeches to a clumsy halt every time a song starts. Makes me want to go see a production of The Fourposter, which is the play this musical is based on. [And GET has indeed done that show.]

As for Georgia Ensemble's production, they certainly did what they could with it. The set, lighting, accompaniment, sound, confetti, and direction ranged from "just fine" to "great." The body mics never once snapped, crackled, or popped. The last production I saw featured two great performers, but it was a May/December romance - this time around, if the two performers are not the same age, they are certainly much closer and therefore more believable. It also made their chemistry better; they seemed to be in the same show.

Individually, Agnes Harty was wonderful and Jonathan MacQueen was good. MacQueen, continuing his annual tradition of starring in a two-person musical about a relationship, tended to be stiff. I don't know if that was a character choice (because admittedly, Michael can be a real tight-ass) or a limitation of his as an actor. [Think Paul Bratter in Barefoot in the Park - a role which I think Mr. MacQueen would nail.] He also sang through his nose a lot. In the future I'd love to hear him go town to his chest more and channel those great throaty baritones of yore. On the plus side, his best moments were when he was waiting for his first child to be born, the impressive umbrella dance he does, and his old man at the end. Thumbs up to the hair department. His Act 2 moustache was not at all distracting or unintentionally funny. A slight thumb down to the costume department for his Act 2 pot belly being too obviously fake, and conspicuous during an onstage costume change.

I always enjoy seeing Agnes Harty. She conveys so much with her face, and says more than the lyrics or the dialogue on the page hints at. She even made the "oh no, not another song" songs more bearable.

The choreography was my favorite thing about the show. Robert Egizio gives us the crisp, interesting, and entertaining numbers I've come to expect from him. Once again, he hits all the right notes.

So to sum up, not my favorite, but nice job all around (especially to Mr. Egizio), and kudos to Georgia Ensemble for doing the best they could with it.

The Woman In Black, by Stephen Mallatrat (Based on the novel by Susan Hill)
No Ghosts Please, We're British
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The plot for Rosewater's The Woman in Black didn't do much for me. I wanted the show to hurry up and get to the scary parts with the cool effects I'd been hearing so much about. When they arrived, they were neat and very well done (especially for an opening weekend), but the show is not as scary per se as people had been telling me for years. It's more suspenseful, like The Blair Witch Project.

Don't get me wrong. Everyone involved in this project did a fine job, especially lighting designer Deryl Cape, who outdid himself with the best lighting I have ever seen from him. It was excellent and will be very difficult to beat in the future. The second best thing about the production was the sound design by Lisa Sherouse Riley. Very impressive. No complaints there.

Rosewater is privileged to have Greg Poulos directing for them. I knew he was brilliant when I saw his Urinetown at Onstage Atlanta in 2006. He hit 95% of what he was aiming for - I only wish he had opened up the blocking a little bit more. Most of the show was played to only one side of the audience, while the other 3 sides got screwed, especially during Mike Cuellar's final monologue. Fortunately, all but 2 people were sitting on the good side, but I'd respectfully recommend he make it so it doesn't matter where people sit, so he won't have to go around before the show asking patrons to move to another side (a bit tacky in my opinion). Enough said about that. I am a huge fan of Poulos's work and I hope he remains as visible in the theater community has he has been.

The performances were enjoyable enough. Charlie Bradshaw has a wonderful presence, and eased through his multiple roles and accents seamlessly. Mike Cuellar was hit and miss, but mostly hit. He had a lot of lines and did some unenviable things, but he knew it well and hit all his marks, as far as I could tell. He could work on more varied facial expressions, and I don't know if the frequent playing with his wedding ring was a character choice to telegraph his nervousness, or just an actor's nervous habit. But overall he was just fine. It was interesting to finally get to see him in a show.

I had a feeling I would have had a lot more fun next door at "No Sex Please..." but that closed last night. I think you all will probably enjoy TWIB more than I did. The production itself is good enough, but don't believe the hype about how incredibly scary it is. You won't have to bring a pair of clean underwear or anything.

CATS - The Musical, by T. S. Eliot, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
at least they're not on a hot tin roof
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
The last time I saw a Rob Hardie-directed show was 4 years ago when I saw his JOSEPH...DREAMCOAT. I loved it. It was my favorite production I had ever seen at that theater. In my review, I compared Rob to Scott Rousseau. Unfortunately, these days we don't see much of Scott, and upon further thought, Hardie's directorial work now makes me think of Heidi Cline. Cline and Hardie both paint wonderful pictures, give us something unexpectedly interesting, have at least one unique casting choice, and don't seem to settle for anybody phoning it in.

So, um, why exactly haven't I seen a Hardie-directed show in 4 years? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. I promise it won't be that long again.

In this CATS, there's a lot for the audience to be impressed with and a lot for the cast/crew/director to be proud of. The show opens with an audio montage of Cat references, from the Felix theme song to the famous Cartman quote "No Kitty! That's a bad kitty!" While I thought it ran about 30 seconds to a minute too long, it was cool and I knew I was in for something special.

I forgot how much I liked this score. My favorite numbers have always been Jellicle Songs, Magical Mr. Mistoffelees, and Skimbleshanks (Memory is good, but suffers from the got-too-popular syndrome). The dancers did things that were just as impressive as what I saw at the Fox's production in 1994. My favorite performances came from Nick Morrett as Munkustrap, Patrick Hill as the Rum Tum Tugger, Jennifer Smiles as Mungojerrie, Tanya Lee as Grizabella, and Zip Rampey as Skimbleshanks (though I've always had a soft spot for his song). I could hardly take my eyes off of Jen Smiles - she was so interesting to watch and listen to. I hate to say it, but she stole Rumpleteazer's thunder a little bit in the M&R number. Grizabella had a great voice and her scenes were so unsettling and captivating to watch.

The carnival-like set and lighting were very cool, and there were a couple of effects that made me think "how did they do that?" - which I always like. Maybe Rob can let me in on the secrets.

Since I don't like to do nothing but gush in my reviews, here are some of the things I didn't care for as much and/or could be better:

There were two curtain speeches. One from John, and then another recorded one telling us to turn off our cell phones. Why 2? It certinaly didn't make or break the show, but I had to mention it. I imagine we all hate curtain speeches - put what you need to say in just one and get on with it.

The balance of the band/singers wasn't right all the time. Sometimes it was the band's fault, sometimes it was on the singers. The electric guitar was too loud in the Jellicle number at the beginning, the Rum Tum Tugger number in Act One, and on Skimbleshanks. I don't know if the young man playing has a set volume for it that he uses every time, but it could stand to be turned down a notch or two. Also, the cast could have better diction in the group numbers, particularly in Skimbleshanks (and the drummer could play softer on that song, too). Whenever soloists were singing from upstage, they couldn't be understood. Spit out those consonants!

I heard backstage chatter going on between the M&R number and the beginning of the Old Deuteronomy number. It's the old "quiet backstage" note.

The theater was frustratingly dark before the show and intermission. So dark, I couldn't read the program to find out about the wonderful performers I was seeing. I understand this was a directorial choice to set the mood, but it's one I have to respectfully disagree with. If you're going to see this show and have any hopes of being able to read, bring a flashlight.

And finally, the first soloist on the Macavity number needs more attitude.

I apologize if I spelled any character names wrong. You cats have such complicated names! Don't let the last section of my reivew deter you from seeing this show. This hard-working cast and director deserve your support. I dare say that John Christian is lucky to have Rob directing so often for him. (I have never worked with Rob - I'm just speaking as a patron who has seen the end result.) I also dare say that this production will be better than most of the community theater you're used to seeing. If you don't think so, you're probably a dog lover.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, adopted by Wally Hinds
Kudzu's Christmas Carol
Thursday, December 27, 2007
This was my first time seeing Kudzu's new space, or rather spaceS, as they have two stages. Very impressive. They could do wonderful things there, and I hope they do.

Wow. The last time I saw a Kudzu show was when I saw their "Barefoot in the Park" in early 2006. Kudzu's Christmas Carol in 2007, overall, was fine. There was nothing too terribly bad about it, but nothing too terribly good about it either. I'm sure they know that whatever fog they have on stage really lingers there, and I trust that they'll find a way to get rid of it when it's no longer wanted. Also, the lights were distractingly dim for most - if not all - of the show; almost as if they still need to hang more lights.

From what I remember, the amount of caroling was sufficient. There was a good amount there, but not enough to make me put a gun in my mouth. Reed Higgins has a beautiful voice, probably the best in the cast, but his solo song in Act 2? Wow - he could really stand to tone down his movements and gestures. It was WAY too hammy for such a small space. It was as if I was watching a show at Six Flags, and if memory serves, he has performing experience at Six Flags.

Believe it or not, I had never seen Brink Miller as Scrooge until just now. He looks the part and has settled into it nicely. Most of the Scrooges I've seen are either stronger at the beginning and weaker at the end, or vice versa. I believed Brink's initial crotchedyness more than I believed his transformation at the end. [Yeah, I know. I'm sorry I spoiled the ending.] At the end, Scrooge is so giddy and drunk on life, that we're supposed to not really be able to predict just what he'll do. Will he jump around, stagger, do a jig, etc.? Brink carried himself with too much dignity at the end.

I can't deny that Jerry Harlow is a talented actor. I admire the energy he brought to his roles, which I think are the most perfect roles for him in this show. He reminded me of Curly while he was Fezziwig.

So, overall it was fine. Not too bad, but not too great either.

Now, what would a theaterreview review of a Kudzu show be without a personal grudge being brought to public attention? Reed Higgins - I take issue with you, my man. See, Reed and I took lessons from the same voice teacher, and I haven't seen him since 2000, when we did the annual voice recital together and sang songs from Newsies. I haven't seen the guy in 7 1/2 years and he did NOT come out after the show and stand in the receiving line, where I could have said hi. Doggone it!

Seriously, it was good to see you again, Reed, even though YOU didn't see ME.

The Homecoming, by Christopher Sergel
Waiting For Clay
Sunday, December 9, 2007
"The Homecoming" marked my third visit to Fairburns Southside Theatre Guild. I had previously seen their productions of The Fantasticks a few months ago, and Little Shop of Horrors in 2004, and was pretty unimpressed with both. I came back because I wanted to see if Id have a better experience seeing a show that I had never heard of and knew nothing about (as the other two are shows so near and dear to my heart that I will probably be anal about them no matter what production I see). I did have a better time. I didnt think The Homecoming was brilliant, nor will I be rushing out to see another production of it, but it wasnt bad for what it was.

The plot involves a large Depression-stricken family (the Spencers) as they wait for their father Clay to come home to their cold, wintry house up in the mountains. The story is mainly told through the eyes of their son Clay, known as Clay-boy. Caleb Barrett plays Clay-boy. I have nothing but respect for him for diving back into theatre so soon after what I understand was his first show ever recently as Matt in STGs The Fantasticks. I can already tell hes growing as an actor, and overall he was fine. Since hes playing Clay-boy, I am glad that he shaved off his moustache, as it wouldnt have been appropriate for that role, as it wasnt appropriate that he had one when he played Matt. Thats not an attack, just an observation that people shouldnt have facial hair in shows if the role is very young and/or the script specifically calls for the character to be a beardless, callow boy. Outside of theatre, I dont care if he gets a tattoo of a transsexual midget on his left butt cheek. More power to him if thats what he wants. On stage, he could use some work on his diction and projection, particularly with speaking slower and more clearly, and not dropping the ends of sentences so much. And in the scene where he was forced to have a few glasses of egg nog, I would have liked to have seen him have at least a little bit of a buzz going. But all in all, hes on the right track.

I imagine Carey Barrett as adult Clay loved playing the Godot-type character. He has one of the smallest roles in the show, but it feels like hes the star because everybody spends the whole play talking about him. He overacted a tad (at the end when he finally shows up, and I didnt know if he was drunk, or in a really good mood, or both), but was appealing. It was interesting that until the end, his face was mostly covered up by his Indiana Jones hat. It added a nice mystery to it that we couldnt really see him until it was time. I have to give special mention also to Stephanie Earle as Becky, Jonny May as Charlie, and Ian McCarthy as Birdshot, who reminded me of Bobcat Goldthwait in Scrooged.

I found Linda Cochrans performance as the mother to be rather bland and one-note. Her delivery lacked variety, texture, and sometimes emotion. It may just be inexperience, though, because it appears that this is her first major role. Also in this department would be Nancy Norris as Etta, who spoke in a high-class uppity voice which was cute for the first few words, but got very annoying very quickly after several lines were delivered exactly the same. But as I thought about it, maybe that was the point. That since were being told the story through Clay-boys point of view, he was probably pretty bored and annoyed with the two ladies in that scene and just wanted to get out of there, so maybe the author wanted us to share in Clay-boys annoyance, and so maybe Ms. Norris was being unwaveringly shrill on purpose. If this is the case, she did a great job.

The set and props were impressively elaborate (they had an old-timey stove borrowed from a local hardware store, and a working sink), with the exception of the Christmas tree, which they couldnt get to stand up, so it just slumped over toward the stairs. The lighting and sound was hit and miss. In an early scene where theres an imaginary conversation between Caleb and Carey, there wasnt enough front lighting, which caused us to lose Calebs face when hed cross to the front stairs. Conversely, in a later scene where the children are watching gifts be distributed, there wasnt enough lighting right behind the stairs on the front of the stage, which caused us to lose people who crossed up there. Some of the cue changes were really herky-jerky, too. As for the sound, most of the offstage lines were unintelligible. I was ready to say go ahead and mic the characters talking backstage, but at the very end of the play when the family is all saying goodnight to each other, I could hear them all perfectly. So wherever they go to sound so good at the end, thats where all the offstage dialogue needs to be delivered from.

The curtain call ran longer than the audience seemed to want to applaud. I think they could have done some more combining and consolidating of bows.

Im glad I came to see this. It was a cute little show, for what it was. I will try to return to see Mockingbird, Midsummer, and Birdie.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tony Brown
The Tavern's "A Christmas Carol" (I can't not comment)
Friday, December 7, 2007
I unfortunately can't say much, nor will I give this a rating, because I am involved with this theatre. I had nothing to do with this production, though (also very unfortunate), so I will say a couple of things.

I just got back from the opening night of The New American Shakespeare Tavern's "A Christmas Carol," and I am nothing less than enchanted, captivated, and invigorated. There is so much heart in this production. So much heart. You are the first people I'm admitting this to, but at the end I got misty-eyed and wiped away a tear or two. This is the first "Christmas Carol" I've seen where I've done that. I suspect that this show filled everybody at the Tavern tonight with the Christmas spirit - or loving spirit, or whatever-you-believe-in spirit - because there was an awful lot of hugging and shaking hands going on. I could sense this was more than just business as usual.

This will possibly be the last "Christmas Carol" the Tavern does; this version, at least. What they will do for their future holiday shows is up in the air right now - they are polling audience members to see what they'd want. So this might be your last year to catch this incarnation. Drew Reeves's Scrooge had grown on me and then some by the end, and you truly haven't lived until you've seen Matt Felten's Tiny Tim.

I hope I'm not being a hypocrite here. My stance on in-house reviews on this website has always been as follows: it's fine as long as your name's not in the program under cast or crew, you give it a NR, and you're forthcoming about who you are.

Mark Schroeder

Lettice and Lovage, by Peter Schaffer
Monday, October 1, 2007
I said QUAFF, meaning: to knock a drink back or shoot it. Get your mind out of the gutter.

I am involved with the Tavern, and I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me, so I'm giving this a NR, and I'm only going to say the positive things. Not that I thought everything about this show was positive, but it mostly was.

I loved L&L. I found it captivating, funny, and even a little moving. I saw this show on its closing night, and stuck around to help strike the set, and even though I wasn't in the cast, doggone it if I didn't get that sad, heavy heart feeling that an actor gets when his/her own show has just closed.

If Joanna Daniel doesn't get a Suzi Bass nomination next year for this performance, then all the Suzi judges need portals into their heads, a la Being John Malkovich.

Stomp, by Created and Directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas
the beat goes on
Friday, September 28, 2007
I'm not sure what to say about "Stomp" as far as a review. I'm surprised Brad had as much to say as he did.

Like the Ricky Martin song, they bang. They bang a lot. And they bang well. They should build in an intermission, though. I imagine it wouldn't be that hard. Plus, I think Theater of the Stars should join in the Atlanta tradition of Producers and Artistic Directors frequently starring in their own theater's shows. Don't you think it's about time we saw Chris Manos dance around in Cats? Or wear a red curly wig in Annie? Or bang on a drum as a transexual with AIDS in Rent? Or bang on stuff while swinging back and forth in Stomp?

Still though, I got more than enough bang for my buck with Stomp.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Ernest Zulia, original scores by David Caldwell
Chicken Soup for the MAT Awards Judge's Soul
Saturday, May 5, 2007
This production closed more than a year ago. I couldn't review it then because I did some judging for the MAT awards, and this was one of the shows I had to go see and judge. Since it closed so long ago, I'm going to rate this NR and keep this review brief.

It was pretty good. A little amateurish, but what can you expect when you have a show with the word "Kindergarten" in the title. This seems to be made for cute little theatres like ACT 1. It would seem so out-of-place on, say, the main stage of the Alliance with, say, Tom Key, Chris Kayser, Carolyn Cook, and Kenny Leon.

The sweetness of the stories made up for what was lackluster about the production. Just one thing I feel I need to mention so ACT 1 can consider this in the future: this production really could have used a Music Director. I don't remember seeing one credited in the program. There was a little bit of singing in the show, and it was all unison (except for Terri James singing a third above everybody else in the last held note). When there would occasionally be a back-up harmony, it was a unison harmony, if that makes sense. Everyone was singing the exact same notes. It would have been so much more effective had they gotten somebody - like a musical arranger, or whatever they're called - to write some harmonies and beef up the song. That was my main thing, and something I hope they'll think about.

Otherwise, nice job. I left the theater feeling good.

Guys and Dolls, by Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser, Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
when you see a guy give a 3.75...
Monday, August 28, 2006
4.0 can bet that he's rounding it up to 4.

I apologize for majorly slacking off and getting behind with these reviews.

Aurora's GaD was pretty good. Like Bert Osborne, I never understood why they used body mics. They were more often distracting then helpful, and they could have saved trouble and money by just having their bands turn their volume down and/or play softer. I mentioned the atrocious sound balance on "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" in a comment below, so I don't need to go into that again.

Performances overall were great. Robert Egizio finally got to play Sky Masterson, after directing the show so many times. It's nothing us fellow Egizio fans haven't seen before, but when it comes to smooth 40ish leading men, he might be the best in town at it. Special mention goes to David Rossetti, unrecognizable from his Emcee in Cabaret with both appearance and acting. Luis Hernandez was fine as Nicely-Nicely, although I felt like he was hardly in the show at all. Either Mr. Hernandez missed some opportunities with his characterizations, or Nicely-Nicely really isn't as prominent a role as I remembered.

My favorite performance came from the person I was the most skeptical about, but not because I doubted her talent, but because of her age. At the time of this show's run, I believe Bethany Irby (who was Adelaide) was 24. Adelaide, the character, has been engaged to Nathan Detroit for 14 years. First-graders can do the math - I don't need to spell it out. I'm a big stickler for age appropriateness when I see a show, so I had my reservations. Miss Irby put egg on my face and then some. I'm reminded of some wise words one of my theatre friends told me this year: "It's called acting, bitch."

I would have given this a 4, but due to the disappointing omission of the Crapshooter's Dance, I have to dock the rating.

P.S. - something about the script that has always bugged me. In the stage version, Sky references a Bible verse - Isaiah 57:22. That verse doesn't exist. The verse quoted is actually 57:21, the last verse in chapter 57. There is no 22. So why is it in the script? Is it intentional, or did the writer make a big boo-boo? Sky claims to be so well-versed in the Bible, so it doesn't make sense that he'd be off.

The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams
rise and shine
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I really enjoyed myself at this, and am sorry that this show didn't enjoy bigger audiences, if the Friday night ghost town I was part of was any indication of how it usually was.

I confess I mostly go to the Tavern for the atmosphere, since I usually don't "get" Shakespeare the first time around, but I quite enjoyed their break from Shakespeare with this and The Fantasticks, which I'll write about later. I got a lot out of this production.

The casting of Jeff McKerley in the roles he had in both this and The Fantasticks certainly seemed like a "let's do something interesting" choice, rather than necessarily a "let's get the kind of actor you'd immediately think of for these parts" choice. I confess, I think Paul Hester would have been the safest, albeit most accurate choice for the role of Tom (if we're just talking Tavern regulars here). But I must say this was my favorite dramatic performance from Mr. Jeffrey Wayne, and I saw his Richard II. He did seem too old to play a character still living at home, and the best hair and make-up artists in town could not make him look 2 years apart in age from Jen Akin. (If my ears and memory serve me correctly, Tom and Laura are only 2 years apart in age from each other.)

Maurice Ralston, who I totally throw my hat off to for giving me the best performance I've ever seen from him, also, like McKerley, was 10 or so years too old for his role, but in the scenes with just him and the Tom character, it worked because at least the two of them were consistently too old. It was funny seeing Ralston (who looks to be in his early 40s) saying lines like "That's the girl I've been going steady with."

Jen Akin and Jackie Prucha rounded out this intimate ensemble nicely. It's a heavy show - I'm sure this was no walk in the part for these 4 actors. Kudos to director Drew Reeves and the lighting/set people for creating a great visual atmosphere. I didn't even laugh at all the smoking Jeff had to do in this show.

You know I'll be back for more of that Rainy Day Tomato Soup and a glass of 2003 Two-Tone Farm Merlot. And oh yeah, see the show.

The Secret Garden, by Marsha Norman & Lucy Simon
a wick production
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
This was my first ALT production I'd seen, and I was absolutely floored with the space and the production overall. The orchestra sounded as good as the cast recording, and the body mic situation was great most of the time. It's nice to finally see a show with body mics that WORK!

The name and title of the gentleman who gave the curtain speech escapes me, but if he is the one who does it for every show, he could definitely stand to cut it down by at least 50%. When announcing a season, not every show needs a drawn out plot summary and a drum roll preceding the announcement of the show's name.

Performances were almost uniformly excellent. Daniel Britt as Neville looked and sounded like he stepped straight out of a storybook. Misty Ann Sturm as Lily had a breathtakingly beautiful voice that totally immersed me. If I suddenly become an opera connoisseur, I'll have her to "blame." Matt Kacergis, my favorite performance, was very appealing as Dickon, and I'm sure is Broadway bound. I love that Danny Cook played Archibald, although I don't know if he was channelling Mandy Patinkin too much vocally, or if I kept hearing Mandy's voice in my head. Either way, if God can sing, I imagine He'd sound like Danny Cook, and the soon-to-be-wife and I are slightly disappointed that we will be on our honeymoon and will miss his inevitable performance as Jekyll and Hyde with ALT this fall. Robert Wayne was enjoyable as Ben Weatherstaff, but I wish his one and only solo hadn't been truncated. (What is it with shows that have been doing that lately?)

In the 3 shows I've seen him in, Michael Austin seems to have been to both extremes in the enunciation department. After being distractingly marble-mouthed as Mary Sunshine in Chicago at Aurora Theatre, his diction has almost been "too good" in this and Urinetown. I don't want to frustrate him and make him scream "so how CAN I please you!!!????!!!," so I will blame it not on his diction (thank you Michael for letting me understand you these last 2 shows), but his over-theatricality. I can't put my finger on it, but in this and Urinetown, I was very conscious that I was seeing an actor putting on a performance. Before you think I'm picking on just him, let me say that this is something that I bet I struggle with as an actor, too. Here, he had a small supporting role, and it was as if he was trying to make it as big as he possibly could, and didn't know when step out of the limelight. Or maybe he did and he's just so brilliant that he stuck out in my mind so much. I dunno. This whole thing has confuzzled me.

It was a pleasure to see Taylor Driskill as Martha, so soon after I had just seen her in something else. I think I liked her better as Lucy in YAGMCB, personally. She was a great Martha, but had difficulty with some low notes, and I could have used more spunk from her in her performance.

Of the 2 children in the cast, one was excellent, the other not so excellent. Enough said about that.

Congratulations on a great show, Lyric people. I don't know why I've seen so many reviews in the AJC that have dogged you guys.

Anything Goes, by Guy Boltono, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay, and Russell Crouse
its de-loveliness was at a minimum
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Let me quote something I said in an earlier review on here, which I feel like saying again:

"...either I'm getting old, or high school shows are getting worse. If I'm just getting old, and they've always been this same 'quality', then I apologize profusely to my parents, close friends, and everyone who kept coming back to see me in all those HS shows that I was really proud of."

With the exception of the brilliantly directed Little Shop of Horrors at South Forsyth High School in 2004, pretty much all high school shows I've seen after graduation (some even while still in high school) have been clunkers and have kept me away. Centennial High School's recent Anything Goes continued this tradition. I'm going to keep this review fairly short because I don't want to discourage young people from continuing to do theatre, but something's gotta give with these big scale musicals high schools seem to think they can pull off.

Let me mention a couple of performances I liked. Arielle McIntyre as Reno Sweeney had a great voice, even if she channelled Patty LuPone's voice completely. She didn't make the role her own that much, but she's only a freshman and she's got plenty of time. Zachary Bromberg as Moonface Martin was very funny. I wish Russell Bietsch, who played Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, had been playing Billy Crocker instead. With a role like Billy Crocker, you need someone who can act and sing well.

Finally, Haley Delaney as Bonnie. Wow! She has a long career ahead of her. She totally owned the show, and she seriously needs to audition at "real" theatres in town. Being just a sophomore, I may have to go back to Centennial and see something else. I thank her for making the show more tolerable.

I really just came on here to mention Miss Delaney's fantastic performance and the couple of other things I liked. Again, I don't mean to bash the students. I don't even know what to bash. This might be a good conversation starter. Help me out - where should the blame go?

You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, by Clark Gesner
Happiness is Stage Door's Charlie Brown
Saturday, May 13, 2006
...and not waiting a month to review it.

This was a fine production. It didn't blow me away, but it was as good as any SDP production I've seen. The real star, to me, was the set and the lighting. They helped tell the story nicely.

As Charlie Brown, Chase Davidson's voice took some getting used to. He spoke and sang like Anthony Rapp on helium. His delivery could be a bit too theatrical at times, instead of just presenting his lines straightforward like he was talking to a friend. I bet this sounds like I didn't like him, but I quite enjoyed him and want to see more from him in the future. He's got a great presence and I'm hoping I can see/hear his "real" singing voice and not the nasal version.

Liz Birmingham nailed Sally, and I loved that she didn't copy Kristen Chenowith's exact vocal inflections during My New Philosophy. I was afraid she may have taken the predictable route and done that, but she pleasantly blazed her own trail there.

Taylor Driskill has the best belt I've heard since Laine Binder's. And before you try playing the bias card, let me say that they're technically not friends (not yet - hopefully one day). I've met each of them once, but don't "know know" them per se. Also, since I know a lot of people read this site, let me dream out loud and say I'd love to hear Ms. Driskill and Ms. Binder duet on Take Me Or Leave Me from Rent. Somebody somewhere, make it happen.

John Hardy was a serviceable Linus. I was disappointed (and I bet he was too), that My Blanket and Me was cut short, with a significant chunk of the song left out. I'm not sure why it was like that.

Royce Garrison is always a joy to watch, and this case was no exception, as he played the role I have a lifetime of experience playing. I wish he would tone down his Southern accent and [I hope he'll forgive me for saying this] effeminate mannerisms, but he gives every role he's given his all in the energy department, and can do the kind of vocal runs which rival Fantasia Barrino's. I did think his Arsenio Hall-style hooting was a bit too contemporary and out of place in the Peanuts world, but this is something he should probably have been given a note about in rehearsals, so I don't fault him for that.

Finally, Jimi Kocina as Snoopy. I have been floored by his talent for a few years now. This is the first case, though, where I feel the need to say that he needs to be careful and not get too show-offy and show-stealing. In my opinion, he is one notch away from annoying, but for now, is still in the safe realm. He's one of the best young actors out there, and I'd hate for him to become one of those people that audiences dread seeing. Hopefully this Simon Cowell-like advice will be taken the way it's meant to be taken.

It's a funny thing about this production - the numbers that were the best were not the ones I thought would be show-stoppers, and vice versa. Unexpectedly, my favorites were Beethoven Day and The Book Report, and what I thought would bring the house down only got a moderate response. (The blocking for My New Philosophy was a little boring.) When we could hear the cast, they sounded good. I thought the volume on Linda's keyboard was a tad too high and drowned them out at times, but not too often.

Overall, very well done. I bet this review makes it sound like I didn't like the show as much as I did, and for that I apologize. I really did enjoy it and may Robert Egizio's reign as SDP's AD be long and fruitful.

P.S. - I'd ask this in an e-mail, but I don't know who to ask. Linda/Courtney/Dan (this is probably a Dan question): what was the music playing during intermission that sounded like a jazz combo? It had the most awesome piano licks. I am currently taking online lessons on how to improvise on the piano, and could use all the listening aides I can find.

Urinetown, by
I am still coming down from the natural high (part deux)
Thursday, April 6, 2006
Simply put, the previous reviewers weren't exaggerating. This is the best show OSA has done since 2003's The Rocky Horror Show. Everybody was wonderful.

Does Alli Simpson keep a rabbit's foot in her pocket? I ask because she keeps appearing in some of the best shows I've seen in town. With Rocky Horror, Jekyll and Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel, etc., she continues to be in the right place at the right time, not that that's the only reason she is in these shows. She continues to be a presence, whether she's a prominent leading role or the third nose-picking phantom from the right on the back row, and this is, for my money, her best performance since J and H. Jenna Edmonds, who could so easily have made her character a whiny, one-note cliche, does a fantastic job giving it texture and layers. I love the number where she keeps making the "everybody sit down, it's MY solo" gesture to the ensemble. Eric McNaughton - wow, where did he come from? This is my first time seeing any Urinetown, and he will forever be the Lockstock to which I will compare all future Lockstocks. He nails it. Awesome bass voice, and I love when he suddenly becomes Johnny Cantone for a little while at the end of "What is Urinetown?"

I have never seen Amanda Wilborn play a leading role, but as supporters go, she's one of the best I've seen. I love her ability to create different characters on a dime. My favorite ensemblite, though, would be Laine Binder. I don't know what's up with my recent trend of enjoying people more when they're in the chorus than when they're playing leads, but once again, Laine was more effective to me here than she was as Sally in Cabaret. At first I was disappointed that she didn't have a more prominent role, but with as often as I found myself zeroing in on her, it was as if she was one of the principals. Never once was she boring to watch. I have saved my favorite performance for last. Robert Wayne. How the cast can keep a straight face when he makes those bunny ears is completely beyond me.

Just so this review isn't nothing but mindless praise, I have a couple of constructive points. Firstly, I enjoyed Michael Austin as Bobby, but he has what I call the tenor's curse, where the upper register notes are bright and powerful, but we often lose the lower notes, then we lose the lower notes even more if we tenors keep performing without water or a break. During the first number in Act 2, the tenor's curse took its toll on Robert Wayne as well, though he tried his best to James Earl Jones his way through. Also, either have pre-show music to cover up the backstage noise or get your stage manager to really crack down on the quiet backstage rule. As an early-comer to the theatre for this performance, I heard conversations that could only have come from the green rooms/backstage area, and it was awkward. This continued until about 10 minutes before curtain, when the audience filtered in and had chatter of their own. This has been a problem with past OSA shows.

Overall, though, I'll round up to a 5 here, where I'd originally have a 4.25. Well done, if I may make an immense understatement. Enjoy your inevitable sweep of the Post and Alley Awards this fall.

P.S. - 2 random thoughts:

1. The synth player is playing the exact same keyboard I have at home. One of us has really good taste.

2. We should all watch how we word things in our bios. There's a very fine line between thanking/praising a cast and coming across as arrogant. One statement in particular from a bio in this show's playbill was, on the ego ladder, just one rung away from "We are and always will be the best cast in the universe, and all others are shit. Actors reading this may as well quit theatre because you'll never be in a cast this talented."

Driving Miss Daisy, by Alfred Uhry
it's a doodle
Sunday, February 5, 2006
I was torn between giving this a 3.5 and a 4, but aw hell, I'm in a good mood, you guys get your 4.

At Big Top, I have previously seen A Funny Thing Happened...Forum and Fools, and DMD was easily the best Big Top show I've seen, and this - more than ever - makes me want to come back. I had some nit-picky things of course, but I can't deny that some powerful stuff was going on on that stage.

JoAllen Bradham, who I came really close to naming the Best Supporting Actress of 2005 for her tremendous work in Fools, plays Miss Daisy. She did a great job for the most part. My theory on why I have criticisms for this production is because it involved me so much, that I got a tremendous amount out of it, good and bad. I've had some directors say "remember, no notes is good notes" and I don't always agree with that. After those run-throughs where I haven't gotten any notes, at times I feel as if my performance wasn't interesting enough to inspire constructive comments or make them pay that much attention. That being said, Ms. Bradham sometimes had a tendency to speak too slowly to the point where the director in me wanted to start snapping. There were also some points where her performance could have been more layered, i.e. some of the scenes with her son Boolie, where she seemed too one-note and crotchety for me to believe that she was a mother speaking to her son. In those moments, Daisy should be firm but loving, and all that translated to me was firm. A great director told me recently that if you're doing anything on stage just to be funny, that's the wrong reason to be doing it. JoAllen played up a few moments for laughs too much, like in the Bauer scene in the cemetery where she's pronouncing the name for Hoke. I just felt she was trying a little too hard, and her desperation for laughs came through. With all that out of the way, she looked the part, never faltered or stammered with her words, and was quite a worthy Daisy. Did I think she surpassed her Mrs. Zubritsky from Fools? No. Will I remember her name now, unlike last December, when I had to go back and research to find out "what was the name of that lady from Fools that I liked so much"? Yes. Do I want to see her again? You betcha.

Scott Spivey, while not quite the possessing the presence or the magnitude of Morgan Freeman or the great Hokes of the past, conveyed the likeability and honesty of the chauffeur. His performance didn't blow me away, but it's still one he should be proud of.

Len Hedges-Goettl was overall a good Boolie, but he had some moments where he hammed a bit too much, and during the scenes where he's frustrated with Daisy, he too yelled, raised his voice, and seemed more violent and scary than loving. I've always thought "you're a doodle, mama" is one of the classic movie lines of all time. That simple phrase says so much, in my opinion. "You do things that frustrate, anger, infuriate, make me laugh, make me happy, make me sad, etc. but the bottom line is, I love you anyway. You're you, and that's what's great about you." is what I've always gotten out of that line.

As I said, this was not a production that didn't inspire comments from me: I thought the phone situation was confusing. In trying to make us believe he's using a pay phone outside the Piggly Wiggly, Hoke picks up the phone from the desk on the set of Boolie's office, and mimes dialing it. I must say this is the first time in my life that I've ever seen somebody half-miming a prop and half-using-it-for-real. A simple solution to this would have been to build a pay phone (nothing too fancy), and put it on the stage level. And when it's not being used as a pay phone, make it so you can take part of it off that would suggest that it's a pay phone, if that makes any sense. Those couple of times that Len came on carrying a phone that was not plugged in totally didn't work for me. There were a few unnecessary black-outs, too. If you want to acknowledge the passing of time, it may work better to slowly fade from cue to cue rather than old cue, go to black, new cue. I did appreciate that the brief cigar smoking was done for real. I saw Twelve Angry Men at the Cobb Playhouse recently, and it was obvious that stage cigarettes were used. Either smoke for real or don't smoke at all, because it's obvious when you're faking it. The degrees on the wall of Boolie's office was a nice touch. I walked over during intermission, and Boolie's name and signature were on both of them. The sound design was wonderful. That was the best version of Yesterday I've ever heard, aside from the Beatles original version, of course. The only sound issue would be in the famous "make water" scene. The level of the crickets/etc. sound effect was too abrupt. It went from nothing at all to suddenly very loud. Also, when Hoke exits to make water, he leaves through the set of Boolie's office. I would have preferred he went between the flats of the set, which would have better signified him going into the woods. Somehow, him going into the hallway of Boolie's office to pee didn't sit well with me.

I have to mention the scene towards the end where Daisy is starting to lose her mind, and Hoke tries to comfort her. You know, the one that takes place in her home where apparently she has "most of what I want out of here" because she's moving, and yet all the paintings are still on the wall, and most everything else is still where it has been the whole time. Hoke and Daisy are in their 90s in this scene, and I must say, they are in awfully good shape for that age with the positions they get into. They end up on the floor squatting very low/sitting on their knees. I'm 24 and even I get sore doing that. Maybe they were setting us up for the sequel, where they join Cirque du Soleil.

Still though, the underlying sweetness of the movie is successfully conveyed here. I had a grandmother who somewhat lost her mind the couple of years before she died, and was sent to a rest home. There's a line in the show where Daisy is asked "Are you keeping busy?" That question got tossed around the nursing home a lot in my personal experience. I always despised it with a passion - it had such a cruel and bittersweet tone to it when asked of someone who has been sent to die. I remembered that line from the movie, then forgot it, but remember it again.

Yes, I had comments about the production like I always do. But Big Top's DMD struck some strong chords with me, and this is undoubtedly a powerful play with moments that will really resonate, and this staging was no exception.

Barefoot In The Park, by Neil Simon
still good, even if it is a walk in the park (with shoes ON) for Kudzu
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Last night when I was laying in bed trying to sleep, I was thinking about Kudzu's Blood Brothers production in 2003. That was one of the best productions running in Atlanta at the time, and from a theatre where (unfortunately) that phrase and Kudzu Playhouse don't often seem to go in the same sentence. But man oh man, BB was bursting at the seams with freshness and originality. Art was being created, and they were pushing the envelope. Yes, Kudzu did a show with smoking and swearing, and I'm not talking just hell and damn. The F bomb was dropped, too.

Not much of that has happened at this Roswell Mall theatre since. Their shows are always at least competent, and usually pretty good, although they seem content to stay in their protective bubble doing well-known cash cows starring performers all residing in their comfort zone, and Barefoot in the Park is no exception. Of course, I quite enjoyed this production and the cast, as familiar as it all may be. But it can't help but feel like you are seeing a classical pianist playing Chopsticks. It's obviously well-done, but you wonder why it was done in the first place when you know what they're capable of.

I was first introduced to Neil Simon by way of BitP, when Village Center Playhouse, the now defunct theatre across the street from Kudzu, presented their delightful production in 1992. That was quite the all-star cast: Jared Shaver and Amelia Bahr as Paul and Corrie, Mike McRay as the delivery man, Patty Seibert as Ethel, and the infamous R.P. Foster as the telephone man. I am pleased to report that for the most part, lightning has struck twice with the current Kudzu staging.

Whenever I see a production of this show, I always look forward to seeing how they deal with the ledge. The way they did it was truly inspired, although like the previous reviewer said, I do wish they had had some snow effect in there. Greg Fitzgerald did fine in the role of the telephone man, although I've had a theory since 1992 that I would never see a better telephone man, and I'm afraid that theory still stands. He was still very good, though - that's a great role. That scene where he's trying to repair the phone with the marital tension in the room - and gets so nervous that he answers questions for the couple because he can't stand the silence - is one of the classic Neil Simon moments. Rial Ellsworth as Victor Velasco did not have the usual Velasco accent, which gives the character the necessary suave, Count Dracula-like seductive charm. Mr. Ellsworth (or perhaps director Snapper Morgan) opted for no accent at all, which made the character more like the man in the bumbling, chatty, annoying couple from "The Story of Us" that Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer just couldn't get away from. But once I decided to open my mind and give his unique characterization a chance, he gradually grew on me. I had a similar theory (to the RP one) about Ms. Seibert when I saw her brilliant portrayal of Ethel in 1992, which caused me to be the only person in the house to stand up for her bow in the curtain call. With no disrespect intended, Linda Niles' scene-stealing turn as Ethel in "Barefoot 2006" made me think "Patty who?" She was hilarious, and delighted me every time she appeared on the stage, and was the unlikely candidate to snag my Favorite Performance of the Night award. (Sorry, Patty. I still love ya.)

[The following sentence is to be said in the James Lipton voice.] I come now, with extreme trepidation, to Brandy and Jason Meinhardt as the two leads. In a way, I do wonder if the production would have been even more interesting had they held auditions for this thing and cast two newcomers in the typical Meinhardt roles. The fact of the matter, though, is we have Brandy and Jason again. They are great actors, have usually delivered, and they deliver now. Looking back, a couple of the many roles Jason played at Kudzu in 2003 kinda blend together, but definitely not his admirable take on Paul Bratter. Just when I thought he couldn't possibly have anything new up his sleeve, he brings things to the table that I've never seen from him. His unique facial expressions and mannerisms scream "stuffed shirt." This may be my second or third favorite Jason Meinhardt performance. (He has yet to surpass his Narrator in Blood Brothers.) Brandy has certainly grown as an actress and has the unenviable task of once again re-creating a role famously played by Amelia Bahr to great critical acclaim. (Last year, she played Penelope in See How They Run, also played by Amelia at VCP in 1992.) I'm not sure if this was my favorite Brandy performance (she had some static moments), but she looked the part and overall did a fine job.

Despite the predictability, the milk from this cash cow tastes pretty good, but now it's time for Kudzu to get back to work.

CHICAGO, by Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse; Music by John Kander Lyrics by Fred Ebb
if you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it, I betcha you would have sa
Saturday, September 3, 2005
This was a very curious production, and one of the extremely rare occasions where the ensemble outshined the leads. Also interestingly enough, my favorite performance of the principles came from the person who had never performed in Atlanta until this show. A quick run-down: Robert Egizio is always a pleasure to watch. Avid readers of my reviews know I think the world of him; whether he's performing or directing, his talent can't help but shine through in whatever he has his creative hands on. Here he plays Billy Flynn - the kind of role he could play in his sleep. It was obviously well-done, but I'd like to see him be challenged a little bit and play against type. Jen MacQueen as Roxie was appealing as always. She did the best with the parts where Roxie is confident with herself - I didn't quite believe the timid and vulnerable parts toward the beginning. Finally, I warmly welcome Kirsten Stiff (Velma) to Atlanta. I promise I will see her again in something in the future.

I had to scratch my head a little bit to remember, but the last time I saw a show where I felt the ensemble yanked the rug out from under the leads was in Southside Theatre Guild's Little Shop of Horrors in May of 2004. Standouts in Aurora's Chicago were Luis Hernandez, Denise Arribas, Kathryn Berrong, and Kate Donadio. The former two, in my book, were more enjoyable in this than in 4 Guys Named Jose..., where they had more prominent roles. I had trouble taking my eyes off Mr. Hernandez and Ms. Donadio. Their varying dead-on facial expressions with the multiple characters they played drew me in every single time. Kate Donadio, of course, has the unfair advantage of having some of the best genes out there. She is the daughter of one of my long-time favorite Atlanta actors. Ms. Berrong deserves mad props for her Hunyak, and other characters in the courtroom scene, the characterizations for which were like night and day, and changed on a dime. It would have been so easy to steal the scene, but she was generous with the focus. Not an easy thing to do. As for Mary Sunshine, I couldn't understand a word this character was saying/singing about 85% of the time. I have to also mention the young guy in the cast (the one who's about to enter college): I have a feeling they tried to divvy up the small roles as fairly as possible among the ensemble, but someone that young playing the lawyer in that one scene was distracting and a little unintentionally funny.

I'd say that Ms. Pence is probably one of the Top 5 best Music Directors in town. She gets a good sound out of her cast; I especially enjoyed the numbers sung from behind the center section of the audience, and the band sounded so good, I briefly thought they were canned. Overall, the problem with this production was that the stage is so small, it didn't razzle-dazzle as much as it should have. It was basically a unit set with a couple of subtle changes, but nothing really to write home about. I kept waiting for that extra bit of wow factor that remained undelivered. But still, I will be back for The Nerd and Guys and Dolls for sure.

Angels in America, Part 2: Perestroika, by Tony Kushner
Apocalypse Eventually (3.5)
Monday, August 22, 2005
The great work continues with Part 2, which is even more long-winded than Part 1. Five acts, one epilogue, one column that fell down during a scene change, one front row that was inexplicably taped off despite the incredibly full house (we could have used the extra seats), at least 2 scenes with stage blood, and a partridge in a pear tree.

It is revealed in this installment that Prior is 30, or 31. One line says 31, then later on another line says 30. Would it have killed them to change it to 25 or younger? Chris Skinner could much more easily pass for 25, but not 30. Not by a long shot.

Part 2 was almost as good as part 1, and Rousseau's direction hits almost all the right notes, except for a semi fatal flaw at the end of the epilogue. Prior's final monologue didn't move me as much as it seemingly moved everyone else for a couple of reasons: 1) the choice of music to underscore this was too over-the-top, sugary sweet Frank Capra for my tastes, and 2) Skinner's delivery was a bit too melodramatic. My "awwwwww" nerves would have been better touched had Skinner not tried so hard and presented the speech more straightforward, and either subtler music was used, or no music at all. Quite frankly, to me it was too easy and predictable of a directorial choice to put in the symphonic God-bless-us-everyone-one-nation-indivisible-'til-death-do-us-part music. However, if Rousseau was wetting his pants to use that particular piece, he could have saved it for the curtain call and played it exclusively then.

I mentioned before that I prefer Part 1 to Part 2. They say that the anticipation of something is often better than the thing itself once you get it. Maybe I felt that Kushner tried way too hard to wrap everything up so neatly, without one loose end left untied. I dunno. I just know that in this case, getting a "To Be Continued..." was better than getting a "The End."

Angels in America, Part One: Millenium Approaches, by Tony Kushner
very Steven Spielberg
Monday, August 22, 2005
AiA Part 1 was, as could be expected, a wonderful production, and for my money, the better of the two installments. More about that in my Part 2 review.

Chris Skinner is one of the busiest actors in town, and is quickly becoming - if he isn't already - one of those Atlanta actors who everybody just knows, even if they've never worked with him. He deserves his success; he has a lot going for him. This was my first time seeing him do drama, and it was an interesting and curious performance. I've never seen him give any less than 1000% into any role he's played. In this one, he acts up a storm and expels so much energy and emotion, that after the show I wanted to clean him up, draw him a hot bath, and prepare him a nice chicken dinner. He proves time and time again he can carry a show, especially comedy. For now, he seems a smidge uncomfortable with drama, and at points tended to overplay things, which made me not believe him as a character, but rather an actor trying his damndest to emote. These lapses, however, lasted only about 25% of the epic. He has some unique gifts, not the least of which is being able to make believable a line like "I wish I was dead." That line is so tired and clichd, and I suspect not many actors could give it the power that Mr. Skinner did. His biggest shining moment was when he made a surprise brief appearance as a different and unrevealable character. Remind me to give him a high five for that the next time I see him.

To the contrary, looking and seeming perfectly at ease with his character is Nick Tecosky as Louis. To my recollection, he didn't have anything too showy to do in Part 1, but did a wonderful job in both parts just being there, providing the support in the background for the characters who rant and rave and flail around doing the stuff Oscar clips are made of. Candace Mabry's performance was mesmerizing and hypnotic as the mentally disturbed, sex-starved housewife with occasional "thresholds of revelations." Derek Ratcliff as Belize just might see himself on my Best Of list at the end of the year. The man has the projection, stage presence, timing, heavenly singing voice, and clarinet skills to die for. Can he train baby seals as well? Wouldn't surprise me in the least. Finally, Jeroy Hannah, whom I've only previously seen as a mild-mannered, soft spoken backstage helper, has got one hell of a set of acting chops as Roy Cohn, the kind of role Tom Key could play in his sleep. I will go out of my way to see Mr. Hannah act again. He was marvelous.

One of my few gripes would have to be with the Italian-American nurse. I wouldn't have known she was supposed to be Italian-American if there wasn't a line in the script referencing it; the actress's accent was totally not working for me. This however, was a mere speed bump on the way to an admirable production which Mr. Rousseau should be very proud of. I want to go at least one review without running into the ground what prominent Hollywood director he reminds me of, but let me just say that this is his War of the Worlds.

And I actually thought this was better than War of the Worlds.

The Last Five Years, by Jason Robert Brown
sweet Andy Meeks's baadasssss song
Saturday, July 9, 2005
I am one of the ones who has seen both the OSA and the Kudzu production of L5Y. I am happy to report that they are pretty damn close together in the same league. Certain aspects were better and weaker than each other's productions. Let me start off with a concept I felt Onstage grasped better than Kudzu: how much of the plot of the show to reveal. Throughout the curtain speeches of Kudzu's past shows leading up to this one, the main plot point which makes L5Y unique was crammed down our throats. Granted, most of us are musical theatre buffs who therefore already knew about this beforehand, but I'd rather there had been at least some element of surprise for the minority who possibly didn't know. This, to me, would be the equivalent of Hollywood execs advertising their films by saying Rosebud is a sled/Bruce Willis's character is a ghost/Gwyneth Paltrow's head is in the box/etc.

On to the show itself - it seemed to move along more efficiently than OSA's staging. I didn't mind the two clocks on the set. I felt it was subtle enough, but prominent enough to get the point across. I enjoyed the lighting, especially during Climbing Uphill. The lights did a very cool thing where they switched back and forth between Cathy's audition and her internal monologue. I did wish, though, that the two performers had found their light better. It was the most distracting in the final number where Shelley Murphy was almost completely in darkness. I felt Kudzu grasped the costume concept a bit better than OSA. They each had basically a unit costume. I wish they had more small accessories to change, but at least I didn't feel I was getting a fashion show this time around. The performances were wonderful, and probably the best I've seen from both of them. Kudzu's staging for Nobody Needs to Know was much more interesting, and it made the plot and point of the song translate better.

You may think this is unfair for me to do so much comparing. I only do it because the productions were mounted so close to each other time-wise, and as I said, I feel they are in the same league, and can be put up against each other to a certain extent. Both productions were fabulous, and, as I have recently finally bought the cast recording, this show is growing on me and continues to reveal to me what a beautiful palindrome it is.

Sleeping Beauty, by adapted by Jennifer Bobbit
High in a tower, like yours was, but higher, a beauty asleep
Saturday, July 9, 2005
This probably falls into the category of "I didn't like the show, but it wasn't the fault of anybody involved," like OSA's Sunday in the Concert and Aurora's 4 Guys Named Jose...

However, several aspects from this production distinguish it.

1. The hypnotically watchable choreography (was the music from Enya?), which I understand was done by Tyler Schaker, is something that definitely deserves kudos.

2. Cheryl Rockwood's performance as Mordra. She was a wonderful cartoonish villian with a great scratch to her voice, which I later was surprised to find out was not intentional but rather the result of being sick and losing her voice. If it causes her to sound like that, I'd say bring on the illness.

3. Melissa Goodfellow's performance as the title character. I didn't feel, though, that there was much to the character apart from your typical leading lady, so I get the feeling that this wasn't the best Melissa Goodfellow performance out there. I'd love to see her in a showier role someday. Her trance scene, where she is lured to the spinning wheel, was dead-on. Great blank eyes and face during that part.

4. Cameron Kingsley made for a worthy prince, and I quite enjoyed his look and performance.

I confess I was half-listening to the dialogue. It's hard to keep my attention for shows like this. My level of interest and investment into a children's show tends to fade in and out, but I say commendable job with what you had to work with.

4 Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer Named Maria, by David Coffman & Dolores Prida
Muy bien? No. Asi-asi.
Saturday, July 9, 2005
This was an innocuous and enjoyable enough production, but the show is far from one of my favorites. Putting together director Susan Reid and choreographer Jen MacQueen makes for one hell of a combination, but I wished it had been for better material. As for the performances of the cast, no complaints there. Denise Arribas is a great actress with a wonderful voice, but her costumes were not very flattering. I auditioned with her a couple days after I saw this show, and at the audition, she looked much younger and hotter in what she had on then. If you haven't seen the Plaids or the Moes, you would probably adore this show, but if you have, this may seem like familiar, watered-down territory, as it did for me.

Five Guys Named Moe, by Clarke Peters (Featuring Louis Jordan's Greatest Hits)
"Five Guys" gets 5 stars
Saturday, July 9, 2005
This was one fantastic production which, believe it or not, actually expanded upon the Aurora's already stellar production of FGNM in 2003. My tickets were for the balcony, but upon seeing that virtually no seats in the second row of the orchestra level were taken, my mother and I (I saw this with her on Mother's Day like a good son) snuck down during intermission and watched Act 2 from the second row. My favorite voice was from the one non-Moe in the cast - the actor playing Nomax. A detail I liked was the lyric sheets falling down from the ceiling to assist the audience in the singalong. At Aurora, the actors simply held up signs with the words on them. I was wondering how they were going to pull that off in such a big theatre, but the lyric sheet idea was truly inspired. Something my mom noticed that I didn't happened during the tap number. The metal part of one of the actors' tap shoes kept trying to come off, and the actor had to keep pressing it back in. I didn't notice a thing, so bravo to that actor for covering it.

To borrow a phrase from something Gene-Gabriel Moore said on the ATML, this was directed by "a genius named Kent Gash." I fully believe this self-proclaimed 112-year-old was on to something with this statement. Mr. Gash is at the helm of the upcoming tick...tick..Boom!, and I am all the more eager to be there now.

Forever Plaid, by Stuart Ross
3.5 coins in the fountain
Monday, April 11, 2005
I once had a science teacher in high school who, when we were sitting on the bus about to leave our field trip at Six Flags, asked us if we had a good time. Nobody really responded, to which he said "hey, a bad day at Six Flags is better than a good day at school." I was reminded of this statement as I thought about my general impression of Stage Door Players' Forever Plaid. I imagine the weakest Robert Egizio-directed production one has seen is better than the best one has seen from most everyone else in town. Don't get me wrong, Robert is the best director I've never worked with, and I figured it out recently: if Scott Rousseau is the Steven Spielberg of Atlanta theatre, Mr. Egizio's Hollywood counterpart is Steven Soderbergh, another director I admire.

I may just be picky because this is one of my very favorite shows, like productions of Guys and Dolls and Little Shop of Horrors, which I've previously raked across the coals on here. I had a good time when I saw this yesterday afternoon - it's always such a thrill to see this show. Things about this production, though, were a bit shaky and uneven. Before I proceed any further, there is a big glaring elephant in the room that I just HAVE to mention, just to get it out there. The "age" thing. It just didn't work for me, but I know Robert was trying to cast age-appropriately, didn't find what he wanted, so he had to go older. The main problem with having people over 35 in Forever Plaid is the fact that the Plaids make all kinds of unintentional sexual double-entendres, and are too naive to know what they're really saying. We're supposed to get the impression that they don't know much about sex. These guys, receding hairlines and all, look like they've been there and done that, many times over (and under), with several different combinations and genders. The characters: Jinx, Frankie, Sparky, and Smudge met in high school when they joined the AV club (the Projector Sector). Because of this, as hard as I tried, I couldn't get past the fact that two cast members are somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 years apart in age, and the young guy looks (not acts) a little out-of-place amidst the other 3. They sell it as well as can be expected, I guess. I thought for sure I'd come on here and call it Forever Geriatric, where they sing songs such as Three Canes in the Fountain, Mathilda, she take me social security check and run Venezuela, and We will have these Moments to Remember...if it weren't for the Alzheimer's - but it wasn't that bad. I was recently informed that they are actually YOUNGER than the current cast of the long-running production in Vegas.

Now to the performances: Jim Jarrell as Jinx had a beautiful, smooth, heavenly voice, and I was impressed at the notes he could sing without going to falsetto. My only issue with him was the acting choices he made during Cry. Jinx is the shyest Plaid, and Cry is the coming-out-of-the-shell number. Jarrell, however, sang the whole song too timid, and didn't really let loose in the last verse as much as I felt he should, and as much as I've seen from previous Jinxes. Greg Williamson as Frankie was serviceable in the role, and had a pleasant voice. He could have benefitted from some hair gel for more of that heart-throb look, and I also would have liked slower speed and less staring at the floor during his delivery of the final monologue, but he looked the part and was likable. He did remind me, however, of Jeffrey Bigger's performace in Art at Centerstage North and Jeff McKerley's performance in Richard II at the Shakespeare Tavern. Enough said about that. As Sparky, my favorite character, Shawn Hale has been given a role where he gets to be Shawn Hale (in the good way). I've been a big fan of Mr. Hale ever since I saw him play Sparky 7 years ago, and there were funny bits that only he could have made funny. But he is "gettin' up there", so to speak. I predict either this will be his last production of Plaid, or he will have to move to Never-Neverland to continue to do this show. Mat Sewell connected to his role wonderfully. An unlikely choice for Smudge - being a tenor - but I enjoyed him.

I was warned there were some significant changes. Boy, were they right. A lot of it threw me - some of it worked, some didn't. The built-in intermission, with the changing up the order of the songs, was done very well. I was afraid it would be too awkward, but it wasn't in the least. I LOVED LOVED LOVED Robert doing the opening narration in person. The Plaids' handicaps were barely acknowledged at all, i.e. Frankie's asthma (no inhaler), Sparky's speech problems (no retainer that he had to take out), and Smudge's dyslexia. Even Jinx's nosebleeds were downplayed a little. They sounded fantastic, as could be expected when you have the luxury of having Linda. I heard a few incorrect notes being sung, but everything was in the right key at least. And yes, I caught that Scotland the Brave was done a half step lower, but with so many casts starting off in the key of A and ending up in A flat by the end, it was probably just as well that they did that. The mics not working for real was an issue for me. They were just props, which bothered me. I believe a big part of the Plaid experience should be hearing those beautiful harmonies through speakers, even if it's a small theater and you really don't need it. It's always good to have it turned up just enough so the blend washes all across the house, with just a smidge of reverb. And the choreography was such that sometimes the guys didn't at least act like they were really on, and were several feet away from the mics. During the last verse of Cry, Jinx had his cupped in his hands so low, almost to his crotch. Plus, them standing behind these things obstructed the sound just a little. Humorously enough, I could hear them the loudest on Scotland the Brave and Crazy 'Bout Ya Baby - the two "un-miked" songs. I'd rather the mics had not been there at all if the production team wasn't going to have them work, personally. I believe the production at Aurora in '98 was completely mic-less, and plus, there's only one line I remember in the script that references the mics that could have easily been taken out.

What I've always taken with me when I see this show is the fact that the characters were so real. Every time I've seen this, up until now, I've gone home feeling like I just made 4 new friends. I can't quite put my finger on it, but this time around, I always felt at arm's length from the characters. Perhaps it was the age, the lack of functioning microphones, the cast's constant hamming [when in doubt, you should underplay everything in this show], or that the set was distracting because it was "too good." [A word about the set: Egizio has it take place at the Fusel-Lounge, which was where the Plaids were on their way to perform when they were killed in 1964. Cute idea, but FP takes place in the present day, so in order for it to logically work, either we would have had to be taken back in time, which isn't scripted to be the case, or the Fusel-Lounge still exists in 2005 as a theme restaurant. This is never made clear to us. Also, the screen in the center, with the constant-changing projections, was distracting when I was looking at it, but I didn't notice it near enough for the crew to have gone to the trouble of putting it up. I'd rather the Forever Plaid sign had been projected on it at all times, or there had been a physical Forever Plaid sign hung in its place.] Last fall, I viewed two productions of this on video, within a week of each other. One had great actors who really connected with each other, but they were average at the music part. The other was an Equity production with top-notch note-perfect singing, but they were way too goofy, as if all 4 Plaids were auditioning to be Sparky. I imagine that in most stagings of this show, something is great, and something suffers. In this, their musical blend was much more fabulous than their chemistry as characters.

Thanks for doing this show, Stage Door. In their closing weekend, I'm sure you'll have a great time if you go see this. In closing, without saying so much that I get Ryan Lucas in trouble, thanks to the licensing company for letting me "peruse" the script and vocal score a couple years back. I appreciated getting my hands on a "copy" of the score, which I sent back when I was done "looking it over."

Movin' Out, by Billy Joel
Billy Joel state of mind (4.5)
Monday, April 11, 2005
I guess tribute bands aren't as bad after all.

My music and acting/theatre life don't co-exist that well. I'm either hardcore into one thing or hardcore into the other. Because of this, a fact about me that you might not know is how much of a Billy Joel fan I am. As a piano player, I know most of these songs (and I can now add the pianist/vocalist for this show to my Dream Role list), and have been playing them for several years. I have a harmonica for every major key, and I even have one of those harmonica holders that looks like head gear, which leaves my hands free to play Piano Man. I saw a Billy Joel Q and A special on TV a few years back, where he recalled the first time he saw this apparatus. It was at a Bob Dylan concert back in the 60s. He didn't know what it was, and had thought Dylan had been in some horrible accident. He said the MC's announcement should have been "Ladies and gentleman, please...feel sorry for...Bob Dylan!!!"

In addition, Mr. Joel has been through a lot of depression and tough times in his life, and his music and inspirational lyrics have helped me through my darkest hours - more than I'll ever get to tell him personally, I bet. The narrator of his Behind the Music episode got it right when he said we hear our own stories in his songs. I'm glad I was alone when I went down to the Fox to see this, because just when I thought I was desensitized to his music and lyrics - and the fact that he was "there" for me more than anyone else in those worst moments of my life going on 7 years ago - I got emotional. My toes were tapping through the overture (It's Still Rock and Roll to Me, which was butchered by Kimberly Caldwell during American Idol 2003), and I was boo-hooing through practically all of Scenes From an Italian Restaurant. I regained my composure, though I got a couple slight misty-eyed spells sporadically throughout the experience, particularly during This Night [what a great song - the chorus was taken directly from Beethoven].

The best stuff from Joel's classical album is even in this show. Of the songs with lyrics, other favorites were Goodnight Saigon, We Didn't Start the Fire, and a slightly-revamped Pressure. I will be at the next casting call for this (or whatever you call it when new musicians are being "cast"), wherever and whenever it may be. I'm still not sure how he hits that middle C so quickly at the beginning of the Prelude to Angry Young Man. That part continues to kick my ass.


Oh, yeah, there was that interpretive dancing thing. That was kinda sorta okay, the little bit I saw. I was mostly focusing on the band. The NY State of Mind encore was really cool. The pianist's improv was particularly inspired. Jason told me that in the Broadway production, the guy came back out and did Piano Man, which unfortunately, we didn't get.

The Magician's Nephew, by Adaptation By Christopher Skinner
the gem of their children's shows
Saturday, April 9, 2005
Simply put, and keeping in mind that I unfortunately haven't seen any of Kudzu's much-discussed children's shows that were directed by that Meinhardt guy, this is the best children's show that I've ever seen at Kudzu. As they are about to close, they can rest assured that they really had a production to be proud of. You can thank Chris Skinner for bringing me to this show - I wasn't originally planning to go, but when I heard Skinner was at the helm, I was so there. His direction was top-notch, and only further proves why he is one of the busiest actor/directors in town. Bobby Smith's music was awe-inspiring. Skinner and Smith are hands-down the most winning combination I've seen since the teaming up of Robert Egizio and Linda Uzelac.

This is going to be a short review, as the ADD side of me creeped in and tuned out the plot, as it did for the LOTR and Harry Potter movies, which I wasn't a big fan of. But I will say that I vastly appreciated the production, with my favorite performances coming from Patrick Lundy and the Jennifer formerly known as Borden. I now have an issue with Kudzu - that they have such a wonderful actress in her, yet they've hardly every used her in any shows. Quit keeping her under wraps so much.

There was just one thing that I didn't care for which inspired bad laughs - from me, at least. It was the odd placement of Jennifer's wig when she played her second character. What was up with it draping over her face? Was that an attempt to cover up the fact that one performer was playing dual roles? Other than that, this was a very professionally executed production. Thanks for the unexpected hit. I may have to check out your children's shows more often.

The Sound of Music, by Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse; Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein
tug of war
Sunday, March 13, 2005
I got an e-mail from a cast member who asked me to come review this show. Meanwhile, humorously enough, for the first time ever, I was asked NOT to review this by someone else. So what do I do? Two people want me to do two conflicting things. For this reason, I am going to compromise and please both individuals as much as possible. Because the Cobb Playhouse is trying so hard to get themselves out of the bum rap, and I recognize that effort, I am not rating this. I don't want to keep people from going to the theatre based on reading a review of one show I saw at their new space - a show I don't like and knew I wouldn't like (as a show, at least) that has closed already anyway. So John Christian, CPS, and the Sound of Music cast: you are off the hook this time around. However, I'd like to impart some suggestions of things to work on in the future.

If you have a show that is double-cast, please announce during the curtain speech which people are appearing that night. This is something I have NEVER seen them do in the almost 2 years I've been seeing their shows, and it has always bothered me. I want to know who I'm seeing.

Please cast age-appropriately. A performer playing a key character was at least 20 to 30 years too young to play that role. If you saw the show, you know it's glaringly obvious who I'm talking about.

Please don't mime props, most notably food and drinks. It's not too difficult to find a liquid for wine glasses, champagne glasses, and to use as tea. Nor is it hard to buy or bake real cookies; yes, I saw Maria take a "bite" out of a plastic cookie, then very quickly set it back down.

As an actor, I recognize that it can be amusing to play closing night jokes on your fellow actors to try to crack them up. But there is a very fine line with that, and you have to be careful. My rule of thumb is: it's fine as long as it doesn't throw anybody off or throw the show off, but if the audience can tell something's going on, then we have problems. I caught some obvious back-and-forth games going on between two actors.

Quiet backstage. Your out-loud talking from the dressing rooms can be heard even if you think it can't be. Also, if a fellow actor played a closing night joke on you, and you thought it was funny and want to tell people about it, try not to audibly bust out laughing and sighing "oh man" as soon as you've exited.

Finally, I have to single out Mary Beth Martin as Elsa. Holy cow, does that woman have a great voice. It was strong, clear, and she never once faltered, sang a wrong note, or a strange note. I hope she auditions at other theatres as well - Onstage and Neighbohood would be priviledged to have her. I will go out of my way to see her again sometime.

They've got potential for a good thing going on up in beautiful Acworth. I hope people make the trip up to the new and soon-to-be-improved Cobb Playhouse.

Next time, I'm going to review for real.

Man of La Mancha, by Dale Wasserman
not just a windmill
Saturday, March 12, 2005
This was the 3rd production of MoLM I've seen, and while it was by default my least favorite, it was still worthy and I recommend seeing it. The set was thrillingly fantastic - the Holly always goes all out with the sets. A feature I liked was the gate to the dungeon which went up and down "on its own." The directing was wonderful, as I would have expected from David Rothel, whose direction for 2004's I Do! I Do! was the real show-stealer of that production.

I'm not sure why they omitted the overture, but I was slightly disappointed about that, as it is probably one of my top ten favorite overtures. The music was a little soft throughout most of the show. I spent most of the first act trying to figure out where the band was. I kept going back and forth in my mind between "they're behind the stage" and "they're downstairs being piped in through speakers." I took a close look in my playbill during intermission and saw that no musicians were credited, only a "Musical Accompanist/Scoring" credit. During Act 2, it became clear that the music was pre-recorded. All the vamps were set in there, and there were two instances where a soloist was late for their cue, which is one of the downfalls of canned music. A reviewer on this site once commented that canned music allows for very little room for personal interpretation by the actors, and now I agree. It was what hindered the Southside Theatre Guild's Little Shop of Horrors from being as in-your-face as it should have been. The actor has to follow the music, rather than the band following the actor. But it was among the best canned music I've heard, and the timing was great most of the time. Had it been a live band either behind the stage or downstairs, I would have said that they should do all their musicals like that from now on, because no mics had to be used; which let's face it, in community theatre, the body mic thing rarely works out. Anyway, long rambling paragraph short, the music could probably stand to be about one notch higher.

When I first heard the news about the Holly doing MoLM, I envisioned Rothel himself playing Don Quixote. But since he's directing, they got Michael Arens, who is a little younger than I pictured for the role [I know, after I picked on him for being too old to play Suzanne's husband in IDID - double-edged sword, huh Michael?], but exceeded my expectations. Not since I saw Colleen play Annie in AGYG at the Holly have I seen someone disappear into their role so well and make me forget that I know them in real life. Mr. Arens did a fabulous job of commanding the proceedings and carried the show admirably and gracefully. There was a visible difference between his Cervantes and his Alonzo/Don Quixote, and I loved his back-and-forth characterizations. As his sidekick, Sancho Panza, Andy McKissick had top-notch comedic stage presence and played the dramatic parts just as believably, but I'm not sure the cartoonish New York accent was jiving with me. Think Nicely-Nicely in Guys and Dolls, and he has indeed played that role. He made his Holly debut as Wally in The 1940's Radio Hour, and he made me wish all the more that I'd been able to see that show. I wish that he hadn't had those make-up age lines drawn on his face, though. Maybe it was just more obvious because I was sitting so close, but it was a little distracting, and I'd rather the make-up powers that be had let him just be his regular age instead of unsuccessfully make him seem older.

I am now going to single out two performers: Justin Green and Karla Owens. Maybe it was opening night nerves, but while they still sang well, I've heard better from both of them before. Mr. Green as Padre seemed to struggle a little vocally. His "To Each His Dulcinea" sounded very scratchy, but he bounced back with his beautiful falsetto on the Psalm at the end. Mrs. Owens was as good an Aldonza as I've ever seen, and was one of the best actor/resses up there, but her chest voice seemed very tired. However I loved it when she didn't have to belt and just let her soft tones come through - those musical moments were beautiful, and when a prop fence fell down during one of her songs, she covered it as professionally as could be expected. Every time I've seen Jay Varnedoe in a musical, it has inexplicably been as just an ensemble member. He's a fine actor with a heavenly voice. I've always gotten a "principal role" vibe from him, and he has always stood out in the ensemble too much, that it looks uneven, like he should be given more to do. I wonder if it might have played better had he and Justin Green switched parts. I also wished I could have seen more from Rebekah Williams, but I'm not sure if she'd be the best fit for any roles in this show larger than the one she had. She gave one of my favorite performances of 2004, and I may just have to come see her in Sister Mary Amnesia's Country Western Jamboree where she'll be featured more.

The choreography by Jay Varnedoe was well-rehearsed and always interesting to watch. Chad Watkins's musical direction was superb - all the harmonies were AWESOME. Maybe he and Linda Uzelac are the same person - has anyone ever seen the two of them in a room at the same time?

All in all, it had its minor bumps, but I had a good time. With the way I've seen this organization going, I doubt any dream they dream would be impossible.

The Last Five Years, by Jason Robert Brown
the passion of the Catanias (another 4.5)
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
It doesn't happen very often, but occasionally, you see a film or theatrical production that gets under your skin, and sticks with you for a while. Most of the time, you go see a movie or a show, take it in, think what you think of it, leave the theater, get in your car, and you are on your merry way with your life as usual. L5Y has been the first time since I saw The Passion of the Christ last year that I have been unable to take it in, shrug it off, and be on my merry way. This show got under my skin and stuck with me.

I sometimes think I should stop seeing Eric and Jerrica in shows, because I am running out of adjectives to describe these amazing people and performers. Put them in a show by themselves, have the Steven Spielberg of Atlanta theatre direct, have one of the top 3 best MD's in town musical direct, and you undoubtedly have something special. Composer Jason Robert Brown reminds me of Jonathan Larson at his edgiest. I wondered if Eric and Jerrica could do edgy - after all, we all know they are born to perform on a cruise ship. In L5Y, you get treated to a different side of them. One that you are unlikely to see often. Here, their voices crack, they get that cool scratchy sound on some notes, and even get a little pitchy for effect. At times it seems like they are a little uncomfortable and trying way too hard to be something they're not, but they nail it 99% of the time, and they can carry a show.

On with my very few gripes: too many costume changes. I understand it's virtually unavoidable since the show takes place over the course of several years, but it may have worked better if they each had one "stock" costume that they had on all the time, and put on small accessories when necessary. They changed so much - in the first half especially - that I felt like I was at a fashion show. It upstaged the narrative to the point where I started thinking "Hmmm, he looks good in that, she looks good in that, I wonder what they'll put on next?" My other only gripe is with the score. Mr. Brown seems to have lyrical diahhrea. The songs often run upwards of 5 minutes, and it makes one wonder if some verses could have been shaved off. Jim Steinmann, who writes for Meatloaf, has the same problem. Also, with so many ballads, the songs start sounding the same. Brown is a great composer, but he has a lot of average filler songs. There are some fantastic songs from Parade, Songs for a New World, and L5Y, and if he had taken the best from those 3 shows, he could have had one hell of a kick-ass show. This production works so well because of Mr. and Mrs. Catania. During the wedding scene, I was so immersed and right there in the moment with them. A bomb could have gone off in the lobby, and I would have sat there through nuclear winter, completely unawares, watching them work their magic. I mentioned fantastic songs - Mr. Catania has made me fall in love with Shiksa Goddess. That is my next download.

There should have been more asses in the seats when I attended, so please, support these wonderful people, although save it for a time where you're not feeling sensitive or depressed, which I thakfully wasn't. The roller coaster they take you on is not for the faint of heart.

Cabaret, by Kander and Ebb
nearly perfectly marvelous
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
Cabaret taught me that I shouldn't judge a theater by the one and only show I've seen at it, which until last Friday night was The Civil War, which I was a little generous to when I gave it a 3 rating in October of 2003. Cabaret was an immensely admirable production, and most of the things I usually nit-pick about in my reviews (overlong scene changes, band drowning out the singers, general sloppiness) were not issues at all. Neighborhood is the only theatre I can think of with literally no wings. Completely non-existant. [A half-exception is Onstage Atlanta. They only have one wing. Unless you use the door, it is impossible to "exit stage left" at OSA.] I did a show at Neighborhood, and I know that there is only one narrow doorway from backstage to the stage. There is virtually no place to store the set pieces offstage, so everything has to be left in the green room and brought on that way. Because of this, I've only seen Neighborhood having the most simplistic sets possible, but they have made it work every time. A previous reviewer commented on the overkill of the slow-mo scene changes, but I only caught this happening twice, and once was during a song, where they made it part of the song. They have those scene changes down pat in my book.

I must agree with everyone else and sing MC David Rosetti's praises. He carries the show, and instantly and incessantly makes you feel at home and like you've made a new friend. He had a wonderful singing voice, except for a couple of painfully pitchy notes during I Don't Care Much, but (in a true "Who Are You And What Have You Done With Okely Dokely?" moment) I am going to forgive his pitchiness, because - while I wish it wasn't there - it worked with the heart-wrenching nitty-grittiness of the number, and since Mr. Rosetti was so spot-on with everyting else. I'm afraid I also must echo the chorus of those who were underwhelmed by Michael Shikany's performance. To my recollection, he did fine in the role from the acting standpoint, but he was sharp, flat, and all over the place in his songs. Laine Binder as Sally Bowles had an interesting singing voice. The best thing she had going for her was her belt voice, which is one of the best I've ever heard, but she might want to think about strengthening up her soft tones. She was shaky with just about all other placements of her voice, but would step up to the plate the most for the money notes. Brandon O'Dell as Cliff, the standard romantic lead, was an interesting choice for the role. I singled him out as an interesting choice as Hero in A Funny Thing Happened...Forum at the Shakespeare Tavern. In both cases, it's a welcome choice. He is, by a long shot, not the typical physical type for a romantic lead, but I'll be damned if I'm not wanting to know when he'll be playing Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Frank in Annie Get Your Gun, Lancelot in Camelot, and Lt. Cable in South Pacific. I LOVED his interior monologue while getting ready in front of a mirror during Why Should I Wake Up. He gives character actors like me hope that even we, too, can sometimes play the "straight" character.

The real star of the show is Jen MacQueen's wonderful choreography. She is one of the best, busiest, and most artistically humbling in town. She never gives moves the cast can't do, but she makes everyone look good, and it's always interesting to watch. Great job, Neighborhood. I'll be back.

Little Shop of Horrors, by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken
not big enough for its britches (4.5)
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
This may be a bit short, as it's been almost a month since I saw this. Firstly, the biggest reason I went to see this when it came to the Fox was to see Anthony Rapp (the original Mark in Rent) as Seymour. I didn't find out until I got there that he was no longer with the tour. The most likely reason was that he had to leave to go film the Rent movie, which I think is also why Idina left Wicked when she did. I was mortally wounded by this news...until I saw the Replacement Seymour. Jonathan Rayson is doing the honors now. He understudied Seymour and Orin et al. on Broadway, and briefly took over the role of Seymour between the time Hunter Foster left and Joey Fatone joined. He was fantastic, but the thing I take with me about him the most is his surprisingly sweet singing voice. He could belt (the "I don't know..." part in Feed Me, the "My future's starting..." part in The Meek Shall Inherit), and he could be tender (Suddenly, Seymour and the "Sudden changes surround me..." part before Feed Me). He seamlessly ran the gamut.

So, what do you do when you're mounting a national tour of one of the most recognizable shows in all of musical theatre, not to mention a common staple of high schools and community houses? You sprinkle a little originality and take some of the familiar parts even further. I wish I had taken notes, but some of my favorite new twists were: the total eclipse of the sun Seymour speaks of in Da Doo physically happening to the "sun" on the stage, the long-ass pause (at least 30 seconds) between Audrey 2's first line and Seymour's response to that line, the long-ass pause before the last verse of Now (It's Just the Gas), Orin pulling out his drill and using it as a microphone during Dentist, and many more. I loved how Seymour giving the plant a "few drops" during Grow For Me happened to the rhythm of the music, rather than pausing the song for this to happen, and Seymour's little "come on" gestures right before he exits at the end of Grow For Me. There's some good stuff I'd love to stea...uh, pay homage to if I ever get to do this show again. I appreciated that the actor playing the Dentist also played all the other roles that actor is supposed to play, although I have too consistently seen the Mrs. Luce character sung in a male register during The Meek Shall Inherit, and feel that it works better when the guy is singing an octave higher in mock falsetto.

All in all, I'm glad I saw this, and I discovered an unexpected star in Jonathan Rayson. I am glad the Broadway experiment is over, though, and I must echo the critcs who reviewed the Broadway production in saying that LSOH shouldn't be on such a big stage. It works best with more intimate settings. As hard as it tried to fill its stage, the pants kept falling down. Who wants to see Forever Plaid at the arena in Madison Square Garden? Hopefully you get my point.

FOOLs, by Neil Simon
You'll be a "fool" if you don't "rush in" - to see the theatre, at least
Thursday, January 27, 2005
So, there is life after the so-called "arena space" of Little General. They actually made that cold, echoey, crap-hole of a room into something that looks and smells like a theatre. It's still cold and echoey, but it hasn't been their permanent home for very long, and they can do wonderful things with it if they realize it. I don't mean to knock the Cobb Playhouse as a company. I just took issue with their arena space, as I thought it was the absolute worst place for a stage to exist. Like I said in an earlier review, not just any random room can be made into a theatre. But Big Top has gotten rid of the arena thing and has made it proscenium, complete with a new lighting grid and curtains. Good move. The lobby is beautiful, too. Not that different from CPS as far as the layout, but it's got a great paint job, and I like the track lighting.

I so wish I could have seen South Pacific, but I was so busy then, I barely had enough free time to fart. Thanks to my curiosity and a very generous ATML offer, the significant other and I went to see this very funny Neil Simon show, which I last saw at Georgia Ensemble Theatre in 1995, which featured Mark and Tess Kincaid, Tony Brown, Jimmy Donadio and his wife - some of my favorites. Big Top's production was a little rickety. Their biggest deterrent was the distracting echo, which requires the actors to speak slowly and clearly. Very few could be understood all the time. Most of the performers garbled their words too much, making the intelligible stuff hit and miss. Chris Garland as the protagonist, Leon Tolchinsky, I felt had the biggest enunciation problems. Mr. Garland is an interesting physical type for the role, but he grew on me as the show progressed, and I found that he was the teacher type that I'd listen to and take scholastic advice from. I just wish I could have understood him better. Adam Zangara, who I last saw in a miscast performance in CPS's Guys and Dolls, plays a role here which suits him much much better, and he actually turned out to be one of my two favorite performances. My other favorite was JoAllen Bradham as Mrs. Zubritsky. She never faltered or misstepped, and hit all the right chords performance-wise, going from hilarious to moving whenever appropriate.

The production values were very nice, with no visible or audible glitches at all in the set, lights, and pre-show music. They've got that set change down pat. The first thing they should fix is the reverberation issue in the theatre, which is what hurt this production the most. The script is funny, though, and everyone's heart is in the right place. Keep plugging away, guys. Better things are on the horizon.

See How They Run, by Philip King
"Monday's child has learned to tie his bootlace..."
Monday, January 17, 2005
This is another 3.5-ish show.

Kudzu seems to have a soft spot for farces. They do one British farce a year, and at least one farce a year. Here they have See How They Run, which I first saw in 1992 at the age of almost 11 at the now-defunct Village Playhouses of Roswell, across the street from Kudzu. I was rehearsing for a show there that was to open immediately after SHTR closed, and I believe to this day that we didn't come close to following that act. I saw that production several times, and instantly fell in love with it. I was pleased to get to revisit it at Kudzu.

Their production was worthy, but didn't quite live up to the VPR production many moons ago. This was my first time seeing Jason Meinhardt's directorial work (as an audience member), and he is a fine director. He is also a fight choreographer, and I hate to say it, but two of the very few points in the show that slightly resemble fighting were a little disappointing and underwhelming, and I expected more from someone who specializes in fight choreography, especially since I've seen him stage better fights in the past (Moon Over Buffalo, Young King Arthur). When one character hits another with the poker from the fireplace, it didn't look real at all. The Hindses are FANTASTIC set and prop designers - surely they could have rigged up a fake fireplace poker that was made of foam or rubber, which would have allowed the actor to actually hit the other person with it. The other fight issue I had involed a punch that was a little sloppy, but this could possibly tighten itself up by the end of the run, or it is something that could have been solved by not blocking the two actors so close to the audience that you could see the fakeness of the punch. There was one more miniscule technical thing that bothered me involving a character apparently turning on the lights, but the light switch on the set was down, as if the lights were off. That could be easily solved by the stage manager making sure the position of the light switch is preset accordingly.

I realized that this script isn't the funniest, but there were lines and bits that are only moderately humorous that could get big laughs. I've seen it happen before, but not in this production. Like the title suggests, they run - but a little too fast. The lines were rushed, and I feel that more could have been done with many things. What were my favorite bits got plowed through. The set wasn't the best they've had, but it was impressive. The awkward post in the middle of the stage is always handled in a good way. I might recommend moving that blue light that they always have backstage, because I could clearly see it whenever someone opened the door to the kitchen really wide. I loved the fireplace. The "marble" looked authentic, so many kudos go to the painters of that part of the set. The performances were good, but nobody stole the show in my opinion. They were all pretty equal performance-wise, and I think they could all kick up their energy just a notch or two. Like I said before, more could be done. Yes, Jason cast his wife as the primary female character, but seeing Mrs. Meinhardt in action made me firmly believe that she earned her role fair and square. She pretty much matches the previous Penelope I saw, but I don't want to beat a dead horse about production comparisons. I loved her unfazed "that way" lines - you'll know what I'm talking about when you see the show. Matt Cornwell, who is rapidly becoming an actor I greatly respect for his chameleonicness, plays the character in the show I'd like to play if I'm ever in this. I enjoyed his take on the character, and he left no trace of any of his previous roles. Katie Graham as Ida was drastically younger than the previous Ida I saw, but it worked every bit as well as the middle-aged Ida, and I liked seeing a younger take on it. Larry Fairall made his Bishop of Lax a little too similar to the last Kudzu role I saw him play, but it still worked, and Mr. Fairall is always welcome in my book. Tom Thon, whose talent was wasted in Kudzu's recent Invisible Man, has quite a different physical build than the last Humphrey I saw, but I felt that it worked equally well. I loved the fellatio gag between Humphrey and Ms. Skillon, but it is less funny now that I know those two performers are married in real life. Incentive for you to save reading the playbill for later.

I try not to make production comparisons, but I feel like it isn't totally out of line in this case, since VPR and Kudzu are in the same league. They remind me of each other, not just because of their physical closeness to one another or the fact that it's operated by most of the same blood. If you have never seen SHTR before, and you see it at Kudzu with an enthusiastic audience, you will have a great time. If you've seen it before, and/or if you happened to be at that legendary little theatre in the round in Roswell back in the spring of 1992, this might not be your favorite production. But it is still worth checking out. I just wonder if maybe Kudzu should take it easy on the farces for a while.

Artistic Director's Choice: The Cathedral and The Mandrake, by Bo Ketchin and Machiavelli
Saturday, January 8, 2005
I'm honored to write this site's first review of the new year.

I had a fine evening at the Tavern. Speaking as the biggest soup fan you'll ever meet, their Rainy Day Tomato soup is to die for. I even saw McKerley sneak a bowl backstage. The pair of shows I saw was better than Richard II, and there were many funny moments. First off was The Cathedral, which was Marc McPherson delivering a rather impassioned 25 minute-or-so monologue, with what looked like the script on a music stand as an aide. He needs to go over the words and phrases that are getting him tongue-tied (this happened to him at least 5 times, where he'd do what we all do sometimes - get syllables mixed up), but he had everybody's attention, and had some interesting physical choices, even if some of them might have inspired unintended chuckles from the audience. Other than that, you could hear a pin drop on the rug.

Okay, forgive my phrasing, but I can't think of a classier way to say this and get my point across, but does Matthew Trautwein have testicles? 'Cause damn that boy can sing high, and it sounds breathtakingly angelic and hypnotic. As a performer in both shows, and the Music Director of both shows, he does a tremendous job of pulling quadruple duty. When the cast of The Mandrake all sing together, their 8 voices sound like at least 20. There was a duet with Valerie Payton and Becky Cormier that took me a good 30 seconds to figure out which one was signing soprano and which one was alto. That is one of the signs of a truly good blend.

Reading this over, it sounds like the ingredients for a 5 rating. So why a 3.5-ish? What I touched on in the Richard II review was that when exposed to something other than "normal human speaking", a lot of the language goes over my head the first time around, although I enjoyed these shows just a smidge more than Richard II. But for such a high-energy show as The Mandrake, there were a handful of scenes where the blocking was non-existent and people just stood there, which is fine if you're directing an "in concert" show at Onstage Atlanta, but not so fine if you're directing a Commedia del Arte show at the Tavern. Maybe I'm also growing slightly weary of the regulars, as great as they continue to be [Tony Brown was old reliable Tony Brown, Marc McPherson still projects wonderfully, McKerley's still the tops in my book]. It does not come as much of a surprise to me that my favorite performance of the night was from someone I had never heard of before - young actor Paul Hester. While bordering on overacting in one of his soliloquys to the audience, he nails everything else, and has an amazing presence. I hope to see more of him. Overall, it was sorta kinda good, but not my favorite. But it was better than Richard II.

I wonder if that'll turn up as a blurb somewhere.

Richard II, by William Shakespeare
I want to see actors on the stage, not in the lobby or out in the house
Thursday, November 4, 2004
This was a competent production. I'm going to surrender and say that as this was my first time being exposed to this piece in any form, I didn't really "get" it this time around. It usually takes me a couple times through to become acquainted with a work by Shakespeare. I can talk to you about Shrew, Midsummer, the Scottish play, etc., but not this. Not yet.

So what's one to do when most of the text goes over one's head? Sit back and admire the spectacle, I guess. I am glad I finally got to see a Shakespeare show at the Shakespeare Tavern. My favorite performances came from Troy Willis, Eric Brooks, Tony Brown, and several of the young supporting players show promising futures in the theatre business. Alas, I must echo the chorus of those who have expressed disappointment with Maurice Ralston's performance. Towards the beginning, he seemed to simply be accenting the ends of each line where there is a rhyme, much like how a junior high-schooler who is inexperienced at reading Shakespeare would deliver it. He got better in that aspect as the evening progressed, but he didn't play it as "sharp" as I think the character needed to be. I believe it's a role that James Donadio would have nailed. Finally, I have to mention Jeff McKerley, my favorite local actor and the reason I came to see this show. I will gladly reiterate that he's a good actor. He handled the material well. The problem was that he played the role a little too effeminate and prissy for my tastes. Still, though, he's a big name, and it was probably in the Tavern's best interests to cast him, as it is an inspired casting choice, so I still enjoyed him nonetheless, even though I've seen him do better.

I'm not sure how appropriate it is for actors to be out and about in the house/the lobby/the cafe to talk to friends, get a drink of water, etc. before the show (when the house is already open) and during intermission. I was surprised at this. Some of them were even in costume when they came out. It seems unprofessional, and shatters the illusion. One wonders whether they got permission from the Stage Manager to do this.

In conclusion, as a first Shakespeare experience at the Tavern, it was a little mixed, but I will be back.

P.S. - Why is it that a little community theatre up in Dahlonega has much nicer playbills than a well-known Equity theatre downtown? It's something I've been wondering for quite a while.

Noises Off, by Michael Frayn
sometimes you just have to come right out with it, y'know?
Thursday, November 4, 2004
This is another instance where I'd award the show a 4.5 if possible. That being said, this cast had 3 full months of rehearsal time, which is usually unheard of, even for community theatre. I saw this show the second night of the run, and if there were ANY glitches, technical or performance-wise, believe me, I was not going to go easy on them with this review, knowing how much time they had to rehearse. I'm still not going to cut them a break. Here is my list of things that went wrong.

1. Aside from the blackout that obviously has to take a while, there were two blackouts that were awkwardly too long.

There's my complete list. Anyone who saw this show, I'm sure, could definitely see where those 3 months went. They were not a waste of time. Aside from the items on my list, this production was polished to a T in just about every aspect. Jamie Fambrough made his Holly Theatre directing debut with this, which is also his first time directing a full-length play, and he hit 99.9% of the stuff he was aiming for. The set is the best I've ever seen at the Holly. The way they made the transition from backstage to onstage was unpredictable and truly inspired. I love how the 3 acts of the show represent an arc: first we see them rehearsing, then we see a performance from backstage's point of view, then we see them from the audience's standpoint, where they are well into the tour, apathetic and going through the motions.

The performances were winners almost straight across the board. David Rothel, whose direction for "I Do! I Do!" was top notch, handled the role of director Lloyd Dallas very serviceably. Heatherly Nelson was the true gem of the females in the cast. I have never worked with her or have seen her perform, but she is a fabulous actress who made me firmly believe she could have played any of those roles. I spoke to her after the show and forgot to emphasize how great I thought she was, so hopefully this message will get to her. Jay Varnedoe and Valerie West - two of the usual Holly suspects - were wonderful as always, and each brought their trademark spark to the characters. My only semi-gripe involved Craig Lovell's performance as Garry/Roger. Garry might be my favorite character in the show; he is known for talking a lot, but when you analyze his words, he's pretty much saying nothing at all, and we get the feeling that there's not that much going on upstairs. Lovell, at times, played the part as if there was a little too much going on upstairs, and was in on the joke that he's speaking in empty sentences. Comedy works best when people don't know they're being funny.

This was the best-rehearsed show I've seen all year (especially for so early on in the run), and another triumph for the little theatre in Dahlonega that could. Their next show is "The 1940's Radio Hour" and I am very interested to see what they do with that.

The Invisible Man, by adapted by Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee
invisible man, visible flaws
Monday, October 18, 2004
The Kudzu Playhouse is currently presenting "The Invisible Man" - the version that, I believe, had its world premeire at Georgia Ensemble Theatre. Here we have a sometimes good, but mostly shaky production. At least it was on opening night - the night I was there. The main issues I had with the production were with the technical aspects. Kudzu has a sadistically wide stage, and if you're going to have a show with special effects, make sure that the way the tricks are done cannot be visible from any seat in the house. From where I was (just a few seats stage right of center), I saw many things I wasn't supposed to see. As for the scenes that took place on the dock, I actually liked what they did with that. Simplistic, but it got the point across nicely. However, they need to spike where they want the dock to be so the wheels on the side cannot be seen. They were out of sight for most of the scenes, but I saw major wheelage in the first dock scene.

Regarding the show itself, the script was okay. It was well-written, but there were too many characters and not enough time to get to know them. My two favorite performances came from Amanda Vick and Wally Hinds. Ms. Vick did a great job as the would-be love interest of the invisible man, and has a beautiful singing voice. Mr. Hinds - while falling into the common Kudzuian trap of being too loud and shrill with his vocal delivery for such a small space - he hammed up his role wonderfully and was a pleasure to watch. As Griffin, the invisible man, Brian Godleski had just the right characterization for the role, but he often spoke too quickly, causing him to swallow crucial lines, or sometimes get tongue-tied. A perfect example was when he had a line about a glass figurine, and when I finally saw the figurine was when I realized he had said "glass figurine" and not "glass of urine," which is how I misheard it. The scenes where he's there but we don't see him would have been SO much more effective if they had done away with that annoying microphone and speaker and let Mr. Godleski deliver his lines "live" behind the black curtain. This was the most frustrating thing, as those scenes completely failed to move me emotionally, and it made his occasional unintelligible speech patterns even more unintelligible. The invisible man sounded like he was inside a Johnny On The Spot.

I'm sure the show will get better as the run progresses, and as certain supporting characters learn their lines. I have yet to see a show I've liked that much that R.P. Foster has directed. He's a nice man, a great actor (I saw him in Barefoot in the Park and I will never see a better Telephone Man), and seemingly a pretty good director. He just needs to find material that is good enough for him. Would I recommend this show? I'm not sure. To paraphrase The Ames Brothers, I'm hemming and hawing.

Debbie Does Dallas, The Musical, by Adapted by Erica Scmidt
Kristie does Dad's
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Note: my originally intended review title was "this show rode me hard and put me back in the barn wet," but I simply could not bring myself to put a phrase like that in big bold letters on the front page of a website that anybody could access. Another one I considered was "my wad is blown." Luckily good taste prevailed.

I have a mental list of Best Theatres I've Never Worked At. It is now time to add Dad's Garage to that list. Every year (usually in the fall), it seems they do a fairly recent musical with humorously racy subject matter, i.e. Bat Boy, Cannibal: the Musical, Carrie White: the Musical; no doubt they'll be doing Avenue Q in a couple years. Aside from one time seeing TheatreSports back in 1999, this was my first Dad's Garage experience, and it was almost thoroughly enjoyable.

There was nothing even resembling a weak link in this cast. Every single person was fantastic. Kate Warner, whose Private Lives at the Aurora underwhelmed me, has assembled a cast of many whom I've seen before, but I haven't seen them do better work than the work they are doing now in Debbie. An actor I've always admired has been Dan Triandiflou. He is becoming one of those performers where I can't help but grin when he makes his first appearance, kind of like when you first see Jack Nicholson or Christopher Walken. You see him and you know you will probably get more than the doctor ordered.

A special mention needs to go to Joey Ellington. I have previously seen him in Onstage Atlanta's phenomenal The Rocky Horror Show and Southside Theatre Guild's disappointing Little Shop of Horrors. Here, he is the most effective he's ever been. I absolutely loved his solo - the song was okay, but he totally sold it, and his powerful belt voice gave me chills.

Katy Carkuff is an actress who always does a tremendous job at finding the dramatic arcs in what she does. I acted in a show with her, and have seen her in other stuff in the past, and she has a way of locking you in and involving you so much that you don't want to take your eyes off her. Thankfully, she gets a solo (my favorite song of the evening), and I will be going out to buy the cast recording because of this.

I think woahfred saw the show on an off-night, because Ms. Krabe was in fine voice when I was there. I only caught one funky-sounding high note where it sounded like she was straining a little, but it didn't last long. She made everything else look so easy and so effortless. Finally, of the people who I'd never seen before, I must give kudos to Z Gillespie and Jen Caldwell. I hope to come back to the Garage and see more of them.

The only setback is the lack of an intermission. Surely they could have built one in, and still have ample time to get ready for the subsequent improv shows. Hell, I once saw a production of Forever Plaid with an intermission built in, and it worked just fine. People were getting squirmy in their seats, and the show dipped its toe in the pool of tediousness at a couple points. But all in all, it was an evening more than well-spent, and there has not been a show in recent memory that has left me giddier than the natural high DDD gave me. Just make sure your bladder is good and empty beforehand, and take special note of the Get Wet Zone in the audience.

Young King Arthur, by
the little children's theatre that could
Sunday, September 19, 2004
This is going to be fairly short, and I'm not going to get into many specifics. This is a children's show, and there are some very young people in the cast, and I don't want to hurt the feelings of any children who may read this, nor do I want to discourage them from continuing to do theatre. I saw YKA this afternoon and am choosing not to rate it because I don't believe I should rate it by the same standards I usually do. But I wanted to hop on here and make a couple of comments.

Firstly, Jennifer Borden is to be applauded. The costumes are wonderful, as they consistently seem to be at Kudzu. The body mic thing was a nice touch, too. It took me a while to figure out how the voices suddenly became echo-y. I don't like to admit when I'm stumped, but you had me there for a good few minutes. By far, my favorite performance came from Angela Schaffner as Morgan le Fay. She is a fantastic actress, and I am now kicking myself for not seeing her in earlier shows. She dominated the stage with her wonderful presence, and I wanted to make sure she got her due mention. I will definitely see her again after this.

That's about it. Some things were better than others, but for a production like this, I don't need to get into "some things." This was not the best Kudzu Children's production I've seen, but I'd recommend it if you have or know someone young who'd like a nice Saturday or Sunday afternoon out.

Ragtime the Musical in Concert (2004), by McNally/Ahrens/Flaherty
nothing short of breathtaking from beginning to end
Saturday, August 21, 2004
There is the occasional show with a cast, crew, and orchestra who are so endearing, they completely make you forget that you don't like the show you're seeing. Georgia Ensemble's Tintypes came really close. OSA's Ragtime totally delivers. I was never a fan of history class, and am tiring greatly of musicals featuring characters from the early 1900's back, but OSA wisely decided to bring their most successful show back instead of doing Candide: in Concert, which was originally scheduled.

The ensemble of singers showed great restraint in their volume when appropriate. Anybody who has seen a "in concert" production at Onstage knows that those casts can and do produce an amazing sound that can blow the roof off and make your heart skip many beats. In Ragtime, they do just that, but do it sparingly. Linda Uzelac knows exactly how and when to tug on our musical heartstrings, and that is part of her genius.

The wonderful thing about doing musicals in concert is you can focus on the singing, rather than the acting and all those are-they-right-for-the-character-physically questions. Take Eric Catania's performance as Tateh for example. In my humble opinion, he would be too young and clean-cut looking for the role in a full stage production, but here, he seems just right. He speaks and sings in a Latvian accent the whole way through, which I dreaded at first, but he does it so effortlessly that it is not at all annoying. I liken it to Tom Hanks's recent performance in The Terminal. I didn't know if I could stomach him speaking in that dialect for 3 hours, but the character is so engaging that you get used to it. In addition, I don't need to mention again Catania's crystal clear voice, which might be one of the best I've ever heard. Also noteworthy is Mrs. Jerrica Catania as Mother, who probably has the best ballad in the show.

Nat Martin as Colehouse was amazing. I'm glad I finally got to see him in a show where his voice is so prominently featured. He needs to work on not looking constipated while holding out the final note of his solos, but his facial expressions and wonderful stage presence really made you feel the devastation of the character. Lynne Evans as Sarah served as a nice counterpart to him, and vice versa.

Kristie Krabe's performance as the bubbly Evelyn Nesbitt deserves special mention. What I've always admired about Ms. Krabe - even more than her voice - is her ability to disappear into her characters. She was Evelyn Nesbitt, not Chantal from La Cage aux Folles, Joan from Dames at Sea, Kate Murphey from Titanic, Trina from Falsettos, etc. Just when I think she's run out of masks, she pulls one out again. The character itself is so well-written, too: the exact moment when you want one more "Wheeeee!" - you get it.

Tom Gillespie's lighting is consistently some of the best I've seen. It compliments the show well without stealing the show, as sometimes happened with Kudzu Playhouse's Blood Brothers.

Kudos all around, OSA. You continue to amaze. Thanks for bringing this show back, as I didn't get to see it last year.

Annie Get Your Gun, by
anything the revival can do, the original can do better
Sunday, August 1, 2004
First off, this is Okely Dokely, in case the theaterreview glitch is still making me "Anonymous."

Colleen Noe is the Artistic Director of the Holly Theater. Colleen Noe plays Annie Oakley in this production. This production was directed by Tim Quigley, who is Colleen Noe's father. I know what some of you might be thinking, and believe me, I thought the same thing for a little while. On the surface, it might look like Daddy played favorites and cast his little girl as the star. I urge all doubters to go up to Dahlonega and see Ms. Noe (and this superb supporting cast) in action. She is as good an Annie as I've ever seen, and I've seen Cathy Rigby play it at the Fox, and have been in this show twice. She has difficulty in the higher part of her vocal range, but her acting is electrifying and dead on. I know her in real life, and that was not Colleen Noe I saw on stage - it was Annie. She completely transformed into Annie. Excellent casting, Tim. Justin Green as Frank Butler gave a very respectable performance. Frank is a role I've had the pleasure of playing before, and I wish I owned a flux copassitor so I could go back in time and use Mr. Green's performance as Cliff Notes. His singing voice is smooth as silk, although he needs to watch his rhythm, as he tends to get ahead of the beat during his solos. May-December onstage romances seem to be a running tradition at the Holly. I think there's at least a decade of age difference between Mr. Green and Ms. Noe, but they played it extremely convincingly. I definitely bought the "couple" thing this time around.

The direction and choreography were great, although "Doin' What Comes Naturally" was a little over-choreographed. Not every syllable needs a movement. It reminded me of the last couple of Bennys I saw in Rent - they moved around in Spastic I'm-constantly-doing-choreography Mode. The dance numbers looked very professionally done, even though I've seen much more complicated choreography before. It furthers my philosophy that if the dancers look like they're enjoying themselves, the level of dancing doesn't matter. Chad Watkins, whose work I previously enjoyed in Red Hot and Cole, once again displays his seamless accompaniment on the piano, and his Music Direction is the best I've heard in a while. The vocals sound amazing.

What I didn't care for, though, was the show itself: the 1999 Broadway revival version, with a drastically different script (including two cute but annoying characters added in), and songs cut out and put in. I did not care for the beginning at all, where Frank came on and sang a dirge-like "There's no business like show business." What is this - Annie Get Your Gun: the Funeral? Several of my favorite songs were cut (Colonel Buffalo Bill, I'm a Bad Bad Man, I'm an Indian Too), and could somebody tell me who died and made Charlie Davenport the narrator? He is a really cool character in the original, but in this, his only solo is cut, and all the spark of the character gets stripped away. He has been reduced to telling us what scene they're setting up for. Is this Our Town? Is he the Stage Manager now?

Overall, though, the Holly can do wonderful things, and this production was slick and professional as could be. I'd give it a 4.5 if possible. I'm looking forward to their next two shows - Noises Off and The 1940's Radio Hour. In the meantime, though, stay away from revivals.

The Bad Eggs, by The Bad Eggs Writers...
cute, clever, and a little over-hyped
Saturday, July 17, 2004
I enjoyed this, but it wasn't anywhere near the religious experience that all the buzz has been suggesting. I sat in on a few minutes of a rehearsal they had during the week, and I was saddened that I didn't get to hear the song that Andrew and Nick were recording. It was a poppy, Star 94, Evan and Jaron style song about a girlfriend with bad B.O. Although the show closed with Mr. Durand and Mr. Arapoglou performing, sans shirts, a spirited Green Day style cover of "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic, I was disappointed by the omission of the B.O. song.

I've always had a bit more of a soft spot for improv then sketch comedy. I did a show with 2 of the cast members in this, and I know they are incredible comedians. The stuff that happened backstage was funnier than anything I saw from the Bad Eggs last night. Not to say I didn't like this. I applaud them for writing their own stuff (I think), trying stuff out, and spending their whole summer weekends getting out there and seeing how it flies. There were many impressions done, most of which were dead on. They can do Michael Jackson, Haley Joel Osment, John Lennon (once I realized Andrew was doing John Lennon and not Elton John), and one performer in particular made the best argument for getting hired as one of the guys in Queer Eye who helps out the straight guy. I have admired and have been a fan of the work of Paige Anderson, Andrew Durand, Jimi Kocina, and Nick Arapoglou for a couple of years now. They don't know it, but they are an inspiration to me as an actor, and are 4 of the few that make me feel like I'm a better performer because I've seen them. These Bad Eggs have a couple of dull moments and skits that go on a little too long, but I encourage you all to go to their final week, which is The Best of the Bad Eggs. You owe it to yourself to see some of what the young, up and coming talent has to offer.

Nunsense, by Dan Groggin
they're probably still working out some kinks
Saturday, July 17, 2004
The Kudzu Playhouse has raised the bar so high with their musicals (especially Blood Brothers, which is still the last show I've rated a 5 on here), that this one can't help but be a slight step down, but still, a step down from the norm of a Kudzu musical is still great, as I've always held them in extremely high esteem. First off, to get this out of the way, I know this is nit-picky, but the significant other and I have to ask: what was up with the weird-looking R in the Grease logo on the set? Was that a deliberate mistake to make it look sloppy?

This show was something of a mixed bag, but in the end, it turns out to be a lot of fun. This theater has been criticized a lot on this site for using the same people over and over in the shows, but this show has Adrianna Warner directing, who I've always been a big fan of, and is an interesting and unlikely choice to direct a musical, as I think I've only seen her dabble in straight plays. Also, I don't know how they did it, but I'm impressed that they got Michael Monroe, whom I have immense respect for, and believe me, I caught some of the trademark Monroe touches in the vocals to this production. And the cast is all Kudzu newcomers, except for one, who appeared in a children's show somewhere along the line. All that said, this show has mostly fresh blood.

The choreography was always interesting to watch, and everybody moved well. I've worked with all 3 musicians before, and they are still great. I especially enjoyed the setting on Michael's keyboard with the stand-up bass in the left hand and the piano in the right. It fooled me for a while to the point where I thought there was an uncredited bass player backstage. They were a little too overpowering, though, and I suggest that if you're a Nunsense virgin - as I was - and are not familiar with the words and prefer to understand them, to sit on the stage left side of the audience. A couple of the performers were true standouts, and the others were, at worst, adequate and respectable. One performer desperately needed to project (in both singing and speaking), and another stumbled on too many lines (my favorite slip-up was when she called Sister Mary Leo Sister Mary Louie, then quickly corrected herself). Macie Myers was wonderful as Sr. Mary "Louie." She is a living breathing lesson to all dancers in theatre on how to look when you're doing your choreography. Her face always beamed at 1000 Watts, which really can cover up a multitude of sins if you have two left feet or feel self-conscious, neither of which seemed to apply to her. My favorite performance, though, came from Rebekah Williams as Sr. Mary Amnesia. She stole the show with her effortless audience interplay (she should be on Whose Line...), and what sounded like a classically trained voice. I found myself watching her at moments when somebody else was being featured. She is the reason to see this show if there ever is a reason.

I'm afraid that Kudzu has gotten some bad press lately, or even a bum rap. If the theatre's patrons are anything like me, they have been vastly pleased with all their musicals thus far, and will come in flocks expecting just as good, if not better. With this musical and the one they're about to do after this, they have an opportunity to raise their game once again and save themselves from the bum rap. Wally and Jeannie are sitting on a winning lottery ticket. I hope they cash it in.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Remount), by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart
second time around
Friday, June 25, 2004
Ah, the joys of a remounted show. The question is: will the show be like Theatre in the Squares Smoke on the Mountain, which is still fresh after all these years, or will it be more like the Alliances A Christmas Carol, which seems to consistently get lukewarm reviews at best on this site? I saw and reviewed the Shakespeare Taverns A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum last year as well, and found it to be an inventive and relentlessly energetic breath of fresh air, and it was probably the best show I saw in 2003. This years Forum is obviously well-done, but with the same director, same theatre, and an almost identical cast from the first time, its like going back to see a magic show where the tricks are all the same, and you know them.

Upon seeing a show for the second time, the initial Novelty Sparkle wears off and you begin to notice a few flaws here and there. I was expecting to come on here and once again criticize Clark Taylors Pseudolous for being too much of a copy of Nathan Lane and not enough of his own, but he realized more of his potential and has branched out a little bit more this time around. Singing is obviously not his strong suit when hes not painfully sharp on the notes he has to hold, he is Rex Harrisoning his way through the songs but I tolerated him a lot better this year. I wonder if he read these reviews. Some of my favorite performances were still fabulous if a little diluted from last year. Danny Cook seemed to rush through some lines and bits that he didnt last year, and even Jeff McKerley, my favorite local actor, didnt steal the show as much. His energy level went from 110% to about 108%. I knew what funny bits were coming, and when they would come, and I came home remembering the less interesting, Sondheimesque parts of the show rather than the good highlights. The musical numbers were not my favorite due to actors not being able to outsing the band, and now that I know that the character of Senex is indeed scripted to narrate the Act 2 opening, I still dont like that. It will have to be an issue I have with the script. I just find it unnecessarily random for a character other than Pseudolous to be talking to the audience all of a sudden. The rest of the script is so clever, Im sure the great writers could have found a way to get Pseudolous to do it, even though he is about to be executed.

The Tavern has never disappointed me. If you missed Forum last year, you will get more than your moneys worth and have a great time. Even if you did see it last year, youll probably still have a great time. I, though, am glad it will not be in the next season. A memo to the Tavern: quit while youre ahead and let this remain a wonderful memory.

Love! Valour! Compassion!, by Terrance McNally
tricky dicks
Wednesday, June 2, 2004
Scott Rousseau has been something of a celebrity in Atlanta for at least as long as Ive been doing shows around town. I vividly remember his other two shows that I saw him direct: JosephDreamcoat at Stage Door Players (the 1993 show) and Cinderella at the Village Playhouses. He consistently thinks out of the box and infuses clever things in his shows. I remember the Narrator in Joseph reading about Josephs imprisonment in Creative Loafing. I remember Those Canaan Days the N in Canaan was extended, and became a pantomimed insect flying around, until Simeon squashed it and ate it because he was so famished. I remember the clock that turned to midnight on the dot and on cue, letting Cinderella know that she needed to get back home, and I didnt see this show, but I heard that when the giant was killed in his Into the Woods, they painted a beach ball to look like an eyeball so they could bounce it across the stage. I have much respect and admiration for the man he is the Steven Spielberg of Atlanta theatre. There are no flying eyes or invisible bugs in his staging of Love! Valour! Compassion! at Onstage, but there is a sweet story here that is actually brought to life more by the actors than by Rousseau.

I was almost completely satisfied with the performances. In Act One, I didnt know what John Brinkman was going for in his character. I felt he overacted a bit and was trying to play the character as somebody with a severe mental condition, when in reality, the only handicap Bobby has is blindness. In Act Two, however, he showed much more dimension and since that is when his character finds out some tragic and shocking news, he gets some heart-breaking and gut-wrenching moments, and he played those well. From then on, once I got used to him, I adored his performance. I unfortunately cant say the same about Jeff Graham as Gregory. He wasnt bad by any means, but with a cast that boasted such incredible talent, he didnt really step up to the plate as much. His stuttering seemed so systematic and scripted, even though I understand Rousseau really pushed for all the ums to be in their correct spots.

The rest of the cast was nothing less than stellar. Clint Horne as Arthur played one of the roles in the show that Id love to play someday. Aside from Buzz, he seemed to have all the best lines that one about nocturnal emissions kills me every time. As a character who I suspect gets put on the mental sideline too often (from an audience members standpoint), Mr. Horne gave Arthur some much-welcomed flavor. Paul Spadafora gets the thankless chore of providing narration almost throughout the whole play. While there wasnt really anything showy about the character, he makes the most with the sometimes tedious monologues hes given. Jai Husbands Ramon was very nicely done. He spends most of Act 2 on the raft (which looks more like a dock in OSAs version, even though its constantly called a raft), but in the third act, just when you think hes getting boring, he throws a curve and launches into an incredible sequence of song and dance, which I wish had gotten applause. Lastly, my two favorite performances came from Ken Hornbeck as Buzz and Charles Green as John/James. Hornbeck is the next best thing to seeing Jeff McKerley play Buzz, and I mean that as an immense compliment. He somewhat resembles Mr. McKerley physically, and has a similar acting style. It would have been so easy to play a carbon copy of Nathan Lane, who originated the role, but Hornbeck does it light years differently. Finally, Charles Green must be seen to be believed. It is a pair of performances that will resonate in my mind and heart for a long time, I suspect. I want his acting teacher.

There is actually water under the dock (not raft) to simulate a lake, and I heard that it is absolutely frigid, but you wont be able to tell from seeing the show. Everybody jumps in and looks like theyre having the time of their life. Well done as usual, OSA. Id give this a 4.5 if possible.


Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Hardie har har
Sunday, May 9, 2004
Attention, Cobb Playhouse (or soon-to-be Kennesaw Playhouse, or whatever): hire Rob Hardie to direct everything you ever do from now on. He is fantastic. He brings his unique vision to this all-too-familiar and all-too-overdone show, and breathes the kind of life into the production that would suggest a budding Scott Rousseau. He took the arena space of CPS where I never thought a musical could be done, by the way and made it a colorful, sparkling storybook, complete with a full live band and body mics for the two stars.

Congratulations, CPS. You have put on a show that I would recommend without hesitation. Youve really got something here, and its the first time Ive been able to say that. However, if this incarnation of JosephDreamcoat has a fatal flaw, it might be that the show was over-directed. Hardie worked so hard to try to aesthetically please us in every single crevice and corner of the stage at all moments (with the spastic rock-and-roll-show lights and the choreography on speed) that it distances us from the characters at times, and we feel very disconnected from them. Because he runs away with his direction at points, his experiment almost shatters the test tubes, but if he were to keep that in check a little more and tone it down, he could quite possibly be one of the best directors in town. The inventive Godspell-esque touches he infuses are hilarious. You really have to be on your toes and pay attention to catch them. Another thing that keeps us from knowing the characters is the lighting. While very impressive for a space like the one they have, the lighting was distractingly dim for most of the show, and made me want to get up and flip a switch somewhere.

It was a little sloppy the night I saw it due to actors nervousness and other kinks opening weekends can bring. The members of the band were all talented musicians, but it sounded like several guitar chords were not right or a little off. This was fairly consistent or else I wouldnt be mentioning it here. The guitarist hit some downright sour notes during the Potiphar song, and there was one number in Act 2 that I thought was going to self-destruct at any second. Also, the kids chorus and the rest of the ensemble would often be singing different words during the group numbers. But, as I say, it was opening night, and Im sure these people know about most of these things and they will get worked out.

Something I consistently wish the Cobb Playhouse would do is announce before the show who is playing what role, for the roles that are double-cast. I had to ask somebody, but the Joseph I saw was Jacob Wood, and he did fine in the role. He was very appealing, had that nice guy look, and realized some of the unlikely comic potential of the character, such as imitating the Pharoah. Sara Holton gives an absolutely electrifying performance as the Narrator, and beams with light and life throughout. Ms. Holton embodies everything that I envision about that character, and is as good a Narrator as Ive ever seen, if not the best (and Ive seen this at the Fox before). The only thing is: I wish she hadnt been so conspicuous about turning on and off her body mic. Alan Stacy perhaps the theatres most frequent flyer is the most effective Ive ever seen him, and I saw him play Captain Von Trapp, Daddy Warbucks, and Benny Southstreet. He finds his niche very well in the dual roles of Potiphar and one of the brothers, although he still seems to stumble on the lyrics to the group numbers. Speaking of the brothers, I wish all 11 had been present at all times, or at least during Grovel, Grovel, where they sing we are just 11 brothers and I only counted 6 of them. If they needed more bodies, maybe they could have considered having the two actors playing Joseph to double as a brother the nights they didnt appear as Joseph. Just a thought.

Over-directed or not, youve got a show that you can be proud of. See it for Rob Hardie and Sara Holton. To the Cobb Playhouse: I wish you well. Contrary to what you might have thought, Im not looking for you to fail. I never was. Youre not quite there yet, but you are closer than youve ever been.

Maggie's Getting Married, by Norm Foster
a superb cast rises above an iffy script
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
The script for MGM is funny, but cliche-ridden with a second act twist that makes the plot for "Caught in the Net" extremely plausible by comparison.

I like to go to performaces of shows that are most likely the "off-nights" for the cast, such as Thursdays and Sundays, because I like to see how people do. Like the last show at Kudzu, I attended MGM on its Sunday matinee, and the energy was strong as ever. Brandy Rizk matures as an actress more and more every time I see her, and here she plays a fresh new character completely devoid of her Catherine from "The Foreigner", Eileen from "Moon Over Buffalo", and Caitlin from "Over the River and Through the Woods." She brings something new to the table with this role, and her chemistry with Amy Rundbaken is impressive. You'd think they were sisters in real life. Her second act "stunt" - as Jason called it - is a combination of funny, shocking, and several other things. I'll just say it caught me off guard.

James Sutton was hilarious as the slightly alcoholic Axel who is a couple beers short of a 6-pack. He embodied the character perfectly. Richard Omark puts in a commendable performance as Russell, the love interest. His surprisingly layered take on the role starts off as nauseatingly obnoxious, annoying, and phony, to sweet, tender, and likable. Depsite the shortcomings of the script, including the absolutely preposterous twist near the end, Mr. Omark manages to keep his cool and stay the course. Special kudos need to go out to Kudzu regulars Brink Miller and Patty Seibert, who round out the cast with their strong and reliable performances. The set was amazingly elaborate, too, with appliances that actually worked, like a fridge, a coffee maker, and a sink.

I pretty much recommend this show not as a show, but if you want to see some great acting all around.

Note: of the 3 people I gave huge praises to, Brandy is the only one I know personally. The other two gentlemen are people whom I've never met, worked with, or even knew existed before I walked into the theatre.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, by By Burt Shelove and Larry Gelbart, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
vocals tomorrow, comedy tonight
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Here we have my favorite Sondheim musical by far, which isnt saying much, since I dont think that much of Stephen Sondheim. Funny Forum has all of his usual ingredients, but is very catchy, and is the oasis amidst a monotonous droning desert of red red red red blue blue blue and to see, to sell, to get, to bring, to make, to lift, to go to the festival. Like Meredith Willson, Cole Porter, or for that matter, John Lennon, he is generally more lyric-oriented.

This was my first venture into the promising young company that is Big Top Productions. I see definite potential here while I had several major issues with voices, Rob Hadaways direction was wonderfully inventive, energetic, and for the most part, showed out-of-the-box thinking. It would be completely unfair to make any comparisons to The Shakespeare Taverns production, so I will not put these two up against each other, and I did my best to wipe my memory slate clean of all previous stagings Ive seen of this show, and to view this one as a separate entity. I wholeheartedly believe that if this was my first time seeing Forum, Id be awarding this production the same rating Im giving it now.

I have spent the past month or so feeling bad for Len Hedges-Goettl. His Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls was the most grossly miscast thing Ive ever seen, and it seems he took a lot of flak for his performance. But it wasnt completely his fault. He didnt cast himself. Here he plays Pseudolous, which is a role much better suited for him. He was still extremely pitchy on his songs, and his vibrato is a little on the shrill side, but he did fine in the role, and connected to it much better than his last one. Neil Matchan as Hysterium gives it his all from the acting standpoint, but he is obviously not a singer, as was demonstrated in an almost unlistenable Im Calm, and he seemed to get off the rhythm more than anyone else. The actor playing Hero could also have benefited from some type of vocal training. His voice was very breathy and he had a hard time staying on pitch. Senex was appealing, but forgot many lyrics, and Im not sure that I liked him being Prologous at the beginning of Act 2. I dont remember if thats how it always is if so, I will back away humbly with my tail between my legs and my foot in my mouth.

The lovely Kristine Lynch has such a great voice, but unfortunately screamed so much (think Mrs. Crabtree, the bus driver on South Park) that she had no voice at all for her solo, That Dirty Old Man. Another performer who seemed to borrow a voice from pop culture was David Wilder as Marcus Lycus. He strongly resembles French Stewart from 3rd Rock From the Sun, and sounded like Strong Bad from Homestar Runner. The Strong Bad thing was cute at first, but got old really quickly.

The director did his job, but it sounded like the MD was on holiday. Some more music rehearsals could have done this cast a lot of good, as there were many pitch and rhythm problems, both of which ruined Everybody Ought To Have a Maid. I thought a couple numbers were excellent i.e. The House of Marcus Lycus and Pretty Little Picture. Most of the courtesan dances were titillating to watch (even though the Gemini twins were cut), and I loved Laura Nagles random high B flat that she hit. The House of ML set (as well as the whole set) was awesome, and I liked the sexually suggestive artwork on Lycuss house. Pretty Little Picture was a lot of fun, with props that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

All involved with this show seemed to have a good time. This wasnt bad, but it wasnt great. It was a mixed bag. Dont expect superb vocals, props actually there rather than mimed (there was no liquid in a glass some of you know I have a problem with that), or certain Proteans to not lip-synch choreography counts on stage, but rather expect comedy tonight, because this cast pretty much delivers on that level.

Tintypes, by Mary Kyte, Mel Marvin and Gary Pearle
a terrific ensemble makes a mediocre show worth the trip
Friday, April 23, 2004
Aside from The Fantasticks and Forever Plaid, I have been consistently baffled by the kinds of musicals Georgia Ensemble chooses to put on. The ones they do are not only off the beaten path, but border on downright obscure, i.e. Diamond Studs, The Taffetas, Always Patsy Cline, and now Tintypes, which even my voice teacher had never heard of. In the style of Red, Hot and Cole, The 1940s Radio Hour, or for that matter, Forever Plaid, Tintypes is one of those musical revues where the plot if there is one at all serves as nothing more than a clothesline from which to hang all the songs. Those who know me or have read my past reviews will know that this is a hit-or-miss genre for me. This time around, it mostly hits.

The 5 cast members worked their asses off. They were absolutely great together, and deserved better applause than the kind they got the night I was there. The set was top notch, and finally there is a show out there with body mics that WORK, even if the sound may have gotten a little fuzzy when the performers were belting out long notes. The lighting was incredible, except for there being too many light cues during the Wait for the Wagon number, where I felt like I was seeing a light show at Stone Mountain. All in all though, I was so captivated by the whole look of the show that I never wanted to take my eyes off of it, not even to take notes for this review.

As the musical director, Patrick Hutchison continues to demonstrate that he is one of the best MDs in town and probably beyond. The harmonies were wonderful. The show starts off sluggishly, but finally picks up steam when Winnie Dunham leads the company in the number A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight. Ms. Dunham was a pleasure to watch and hear, but aside from her other highlight, which was Nobody, I felt like she was mostly on the sideline. She got to be featured on Poor Wayfaring Stranger, but the superfluous monologues from the ensemble (the same downfall that plagues Smoke on the Mountain and The Sanders Family Christmas) drug the number down into Snoozville.

Judy Fitzgerald, I felt, was also brushed aside, but she was very pleasant and got a nice show-stopping number with Tony Hayes in What it Takes to Make Me Love You Youve Got It. Lisa Parks has the looks and the voice that would melt a cheese sandwich from across the room. She is an absolute knockout and showed amazing versatility that I didnt know she had, and I have no doubt that shed be an asset to any cast. She not only distinguishes the otherwise tedious Anna Held sequence, she lights it up with her dead-on French accent and her natural stage presence. Eric Catanias voice is smooth as silk, and hes got some nice chops as a dancer (although I couldnt figure out why he had his tongue sticking out all through the Ragtime Dance) and a mime, with two stellar bits: one involving a balloon, the other involving an apple. He lets the focus remain on the balloon and the apple, while making us want to watch him at the same time. He made Then Id Be Satisfied look so effortless, and got to shine in a hilarious extended vaudeville stand-up monologue, which makes him the best potential Harold Hill Ive seen in a long time. Catania owns the vaudeville sequence; it wears out its welcome and becomes excruciatingly overlong from about the 4th or 5th joke told by the Tony Hayes character.

Georgia Ensemble Theatre definitely has it goin on, but leaves something to be desired with the confusing selection of their musicals. I owe my love affair with my favorite musical (The Fantasticks) to them. Their production exposed me to the show for the first time, and now they usually stick to unknowns, but maybe thats the point. Theyve got the talent and the fine production values, and Im not saying they have to turn completely traditional and do a Sound of Music or an Annie or an Oliver. But how about something fairly traditional, but obscure enough that most will be unacquainted with the material, like a Closer Than Ever, a Falsettos, or maybe even a Baby.

I can dream, cant I?

Little Shop of Horrors, by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken
Don't it go to show ya never know?
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Little Shop of Horrors was my favorite movie as a little kid, and is still one of my favorite movie musicals. The stage version is #4 in my Top Ten Favorite Musicals list, I have now seen two productions of LSOH, and have done this show before, in another one of my favorite performances. I want to be in it about a million more times, plus Id love to direct it one day.

All that being said, it has been a great couple of weeks, where Ive gotten to see the two shows that are probably my two fondest musical theatre memories. I have been consistently underwhelmed by just about all the high school productions Ive seen since my graduation (and some even before that), but South Forsyth High Schools recent incarnation of Little Shop is riddled with flashes of absolute brilliance which distinguishes it from the typical high school fare Ive had to wade through. I could easily see the trap door that the actors who were eaten by the plant could use to escape backstage, and I wish the clock in the shop had been consistent with the time it was supposed to be, but there was at least one set change that I still cant figure out how it was done. Im sure there were a couple more, too. The set and the lighting were the most inspired that Ive seen since the Kudzu Playhouse did Blood Brothers back in October. This production featured a huge ensemble that acted as both Skid Row bums and stagehands, and every single set change was seamless and quick. The townspeople were put to very good use, and were never annoying or superfluous. There were no more than a handful of set and prop issues I had, such as the appearance of the plant. I must say that this was the shabbiest-looking Audrey 2 Ive ever seen. Picture a huge green beanbag chair with a mouth, and no pot. A2s head was resting on the ground from Closed For Renovation on. Furthermore, there were no chairs in the shop, which made some of the action (Seymour using the typewriter) look painfully awkward. And finally, were we supposed to believe Orins dentists office was out in the street? The usually tedious and monotonous Now (Its Just the Gas) scene was wonderfully played out by the two actors, but the DDS chair was literally outside the shop, with Dr. Scrivello apparently keeping his special gas mask in the alley around the corner. This was something that a curtain closing or even partial stage lighting could have solved.

Speaking of Orin, my favorite performance of the night was the young man playing the Audrey-beating, nitrous-oxide-inhaling demented sadist. Finally we have someone who is the best Dentist since Steve Martin without being a carbon copy of Martins classic performance. This Orin goes back to the roots of the character and channels Elvis, while being fantastically original at the same time. The highlight of this Audrey and sadly, about the only thing I can remember about her performance was when she belted out her verse of Suddenly, Seymour. Somewhere Thats Green was nothing short of genius, but it wasnt due to her, but rather to the two individuals in the ensemble portraying her fantasy by melodramatically acting out all the lyrics, with a hint of ballet added in. This was the kind of outside-the-box thinking that I adored about this production, but Im afraid things like that may have overshadowed the female lead, because it seemed as if she was hardly in the show at all. I think you could also blame it on the totally winning, animated, show-stealing performance of the actress playing Crystal, who was always so much fun to watch. Joel Hughes as Seymour made several acting choices that I really liked, but I couldnt completely get past the physical build of the actor (too tall) versus my vision of the character. I felt he needed more urgency in Act 2 when things really start to get stressful, and he was obviously a baritone [evidenced by his inability to hit the high notes in the I dont know part during his duet with A2], although I saw one Seymour who had an even harder time with the high stuff.

The sound situation was shaky, but not unbearable. Aside from the Usual Suspects of high school mistakes (an off-key trio, singers out of rhythm/not together with the orchestra, and some flat out missed lyrics), Ive definitely heard much worse in recent months. I just wish the keyboards were louder, and because of their failure to have the body mics on during the speaking parts, the important dialogue during Suppertime could not be heard at all.

All in all, though, the things I remember most are the moments of brilliance. It was a pleasure to hear the vocalists borrowing some of the most creative nuances from the New Broadway Cast recording; it made me smile knowingly. My faith has been restored in the potential of high school productions, and if you want salvation from HS show blues, venture on up to South Forsyth for something a little better and different. But whatever they offer you, dont feed the plants especially with beanbags.

Guys and Dolls, by
keep trying
Saturday, March 20, 2004
When you see a guy reach for stars in the sky, its probably John Christian, the artistic director of the Cobb Playhouse and Studio. Hes been aiming pretty high lately (Guys and Dolls, Romeo and Juliet, next up is JosephDreamcoat), but for now is probably biting off more than he can chew. Fine by me, though. No matter how hard and flat a theatre may fall on its face when they try something different, I applaud them for their courage and ambition. You never learn how to roller-skate without falling down. I know that both literally and figuratively.

I have seen 4 productions of GaD and have been in the show once before, in one of my favorite performances. This is also #7 in a top ten favorite musicals list that I made for myself recently, so Im very picky when it comes to this show. I am glad that most of this cast were apparent newcomers to the Cobb Playhouse, because after seeing the theatres most frequent flyer consistently flub up the lyrics to some of the group numbers, it makes me wonder if the veterans should take a hiatus. First off, this is a fairly short show, and I dont believe it should EVER last 2 hours, but this production does, not counting the intermission. The blame for this can be placed on the scene changes they were often too loud and too long to the point where I dreaded the ending of scenes as they approached. A few of them were flat out strange i.e. a random ensemble member would walk across the stage and change an article of clothing, stop and look at the contents of a package, etc. There was also a lot of backstage noise, and the drummer practicing some beats in between songs was the most distracting of all. The drums, on the whole, were overdone, as if they were trying to make it a techno version of the show. They were unnecessary during the songs where the cast recording was used (dont get me started on the CD being used that should be a big theatre no-no), and quite often were off the beat, especially during the Crapshooters Dance.

Speaking of the dances, the Crapshooters Dance, along with the Cuban dances in the Havana sequence, were very impressive. Everybody moved well from the real dancers to the performers with two left feet, and it was never boring to watch, so many props go to the choreographer. I enjoyed the costumes and the sets, when all the scene transitions were finally over, although I wish they had done something more creative than recycling the Warbucks mansion from the Annie set and trying to pass it off as the Hot Box. The blocking was adequate for the most part, though I did think there could have been more movement in the Sit Down, Youre Rocking the Boat choreography. It seemed a little too stiff for such a show-stopping number. Aside from some soloists not being together with the music, the out-of-place anachronistic references (Joe Pesci, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and psychadelic flowers), Harry the Horse suddenly becoming Howard Cosell in one scene, and the aforementioned, I didnt have much of a problem with the way the show looked.

By far the brightest spots amid an iffy production were the two female leads. Neither were the best Sarah or Adelaide Ive seen, but each did wonderful things with their characters. Kathleen McCook as Miss Adelaide had great chemistry with her audience and was a pleasure to watch. I loved her, a bushel and a peck. Julia D. Jones was very pretty and engaging as Sarah Brown, with the highlight being her drunken scenes, especially If I Were a Bell. She also proved to be a helpful fellow actor, as she put the show back on track a few times when Sky Masterson stumbled on lines. When the two of them were together, fireworks went off on stage, and they gave Marry the Man Today the unlikely award of Best Number of the evening.

What can I say about Sky? This one, along with the last Sky I saw, have both completely missed the boat. As an actor, Len Hedges-Goettl seemed good enough; he projected very well, and seemed to have a lot of fun up there, but he was horribly miscast. Sky is supposed to be a romantic strapping young (ish) leading man-type character, but Mr. Hedges-Goettl was not at all wooing, and had a creepy demeanor (think Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace). His was pitchy on his songs, as Randy Jackson frequently says, and his singing bordered on opera parody, which made Luck Be a Lady one of my favorite songs in all of musical theatre take its toll. Also uncomfortably miscast was Adam Zangara as Big Jule. With his flamboyance, high-pitched nasal voice, and inability to be intimidating, he seemed more of a Nicely-Nicely wannabe than a Big Jule.

As you can see, Im very passionate about this show and like to think I know the ins and outs of it well enough to make certain assessments. No personal harm intended to the people or things I have mentioned I am just calling it like I see it. I know how much of a thrill it is to do this show, and I hope youre having fun, and I wish you all a good rest of the run. And to the Cobb Playhouse and Studio: youre on the right track. Keep trying.

Caught in the Net, by Ray Cooney
what a tangled web we weave
Saturday, March 20, 2004
CitN is a sequel to Run For Your Wife, which was presented by Kudzu last year, and let the customer beware that if they didnt see RFYW as I didnt they will be pretty lost at the beginning, and will need to really pay attention to get caught up. The play does not stand as well on its own as director Lane Teilhaber suggests in his directors notes in the playbill.

That being said, once I got caught up and understood not only what had gone on in the past but what was currently going on, this was a typically cute little British romp, complete with mistaken identities, running around, doors slamming, and a highly improbable plot which flies in the face of all logic. I suggest you leave your brain at the door and try not to dwell on the questions that this show will undoubtedly pose, such as why someone wouldnt recognize their own father or husband even though he is crouched over, or for that matter why they couldnt recognize their own father or husbands voice on the telephone, even if they were impersonating a Chinese Restaurant owner (which was hilariously done by Kevin Garrett, by the way).

Not to spoil too much of the ending, but Im glad the web of lies gets untangled and the truth comes out and is dealt with. I was hoping that would be the conclusion, as it would have left a bad taste in my mouth if the protagonist kept up the charade and didnt learn anything. This show takes about half an hour or so in the beginning to pick up steam, but once it does, it is exciting as any British farce Ive seen, and I remember being disappointed when intermission began because that meant thered be a pause in the action. Kudos go to Kevin Garrett (an actor who I go way back with Kiss and Tell at VPR in 1993, anyone?), Larry Fairall, Sean ORourke, Amy Rundbaken, and the cute and talented Jessica Dienna. There was no phoning in of performances from this cast, even on the Sunday afternoon that I saw it. From the front row, I could see that just about all the actors were sweating buckets. Well done Kudzu I wish you well in your new space.

Red, Hot and Cole, by
Not so Red Hot
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
RHaC is a musical revue with a paper-thin plot, which only exists to link all the songs together. I have seen shows like this before. I have done shows like this before. Overall, I am not a fan of this type of thing. I liken this to an artists Greatest Hits album, which I have never cared much for either. Putting all those songs together is great, but it doesnt tell a cohesive story like the original albums did. Who wants to see a clip show of the best scenes from the best movies? Certainly not me. Id rather view the films individually, warts and all. This is why I tend to shy away from the occasional cop-out Simpsons episode that is nothing more than montages from previous shows.

That being said, the overall production was always competent and sometimes impressive. I commend director Jay Varnedoe for tackling the awkward situation of giving your actors blocking when there is a Baby Grand piano in the smack-dab middle of the stage the whole time. The staging always looked clean, and he should be applauded for that. Special kudos go to Chad Watkins. That man can really lay it down on the piano, and he was very animated and looked like he was having fun. Watkins was enjoyable to watch. Speical performance mention goes to the young Brandon Nonnemaker. While his acting was a bit stiff, his tenor voice was absolutely gorgeous and gave me chills. The standout number for me was a hilarious rendition of Dont Fence Me In, performed to comic perfection by Will Dunne and Hal Williams.

Jim Noe and Valerie West put in worthy performances as the two leads: Cole Porter and Elsa/Esther, respectively. While Ms. West cracked a couple of times in her songs, she has a voice that can change volumes, textures, and emotions when appropriate for each song, and she looked stunning in her costumes. She needs to record a CD. Jim Noes voice was not as strong as Ive heard before (I think the whole cast was having an off night), but he put in a nicely layered performance as the elegant and famously wordy songwriter.

The ending of the show is too abrupt, and it was downright confusing when the music suddenly became upbeat and all the players came out for the curtain call, when I didnt think it was over yet. The last scene ends on such a dark, sad, sour note, that the show, the actors, and the audience have to suddently turn schizo. Many of the songs were wonderful, but it wasnt the all-out-Broadway-glitz-and-show-stopping-glamour that I was expecting from a musical titled Red Hot and Cole. About 85% of the songs were mid-tempo songs to ballads. I enjoyed hearing my faves from Anything Goes and Kiss me, Kate, but I think Ill stick with those individual shows, thank you very much.

The Holly spared no pains with the sets, costumes, props, and fantastic lighting, but the show itself is really not that red hot. I have faith that the theatre will knock em dead with the next one, but in the meantime, stay away from Greatest Hits.

Les Miserables, by Boublil & Shoenberg
High Schoolers like it when you grade on a curve
Thursday, January 29, 2004
In my opinion, this production really deserves about a 2, but Im curving the grade a little bit for various reasons. Firstly, Ill admit I was supremely disappointed with this show for a very selfish reason, and that was that I came on the wrong night, so to speak i.e. Most of the friends I came to see were playing very prominent roles that I didnt get to see, other than in the background singing with the ensemble. Since this might have somewhat crippled my ability to write a fair and constructive review, I gave the grade a little boost. Also, I adjusted the rating because this was just high school, and not a normal theatre, which brings me to my next point: either Im getting old, or high school shows are getting worse. If Im just getting old, and theyve always been this same quality, then I apologize profusely to my parents, close friends, and everyone who kept coming back to see me in all those HS shows that I was really proud of. Reading this over, it sounds like Im bashing HS shows, and I dont mean to. They are not bad, but in my experience theyve been either okay or good, but havent surpassed good.

A recurring motif in my reviews, Ive noticed, is that I mention a real star a lot, and for me, Les Miss real star was the orchestra. Aside from a fiddle being out of tune for a little while, they sounded phenomenal. On to the performances, while Jean Valjean, Marius, and Javert all had fairly good presence acting-wise, their singing sometimes could be painful to listen to. Javert slid off his pitch many times, and Ill just say that Id rather Bring Him Home had been cut from the show then attempted by this actor at all. I could elaborate, but Ill restrain. I have so many great comments, but Ill be a good boy. I unfortunately didnt get to see Paige play Eponine, but the one I saw was one of the few bright spots amid this cast. Her voice sounded a little on the poppy side, but Ive always thought that kinda fit the character. She was a pretty good actress, too. My favorite performance came from Amber Moorer as Madam Thenardier, and as she (and her stage husband) got the most applause the night I attended, it seems that several people agree with me. Im not sure if she is the best M. Thenard. Ive ever seen, but she is certainly the most memorable. All her short penis jokes she made during Master of the House was a nice touch, and she has got one hell of a powerful voice. Ever since I first heard North Springs was doing Les Mis as one of their musicals, I was hoping Amber would get this part. As for Gavroche, I will simply state that I thought this actor was just as good as the one I saw at the Fox last fall. You can interpret for yourself what I mean by that comment.

The set was very well done, and I liked the minimal-ness of it. Finally, was there anyone paying an ounce of attention to the body mics? Whole songs would go by where I couldnt hear a word that was sung, and I have never felt worse for anyone when Ive seen a show than the sympathy I felt for Eponine during On My Own. The body mic situation was so atrocious, that she went through the song sounding like Charlie Browns teacher. The show had by far the worst microphone sound I have ever heard, even at a high school. Maybe the classics should be left for Broadway and National Tours, or at least be tried out at regional theatres, then community, then work its way toward schools. As much as I love Rent, I pray that they never create a School Edition, but Im afraid thats next. I salute everyone involved in succeeding in presenting such an ambitious show (succeeding, meaning the show didnt get cancelled, or the theatre didnt blow up), but to quote Inspector Javert, North Springs reached, but they fell (sort of).

P.S. Why does this site say that Tad Wilson was the director?

I Do! I Do!, by
They did! They did! (almost)
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
This was my first time experiencing I Do! I Do! or any version of the Fourposter story. I vastly enjoyed this production on the whole, and find it unfortunate that more people dont make the trek up to Dahlonega to see shows at the Holly, because they would be wrong to assume that it is nothing better than a rinky-dink community theatre that is too far away to matter, which is sadly why it probably gets overlooked. The Holly staff is extremely nice and organized, and I have seen and/or worked with at least two theatres in the Atlanta area of lesser quality.

A nice surprise, and if Im not mistaken, a first for the Holly Downstairs Dinner Theatre was the inclusion of live music. They did away with that dreaded RehearsScore and used a keyboard player. Hearing the show for the first time, even I could tell that he hit a few wrong notes here and there, but I have heard less competent accompanists in the past, and the sound balance was absolutely perfect, even in that small room.

David Rothel really knows what hes doing as far as direction goes. IDID was probably the best-directed show Ive seen in a long time, and I dare say that the staging was the real star of the show for me. The characters of Michael and Agnes were played by Michael Arens and Suzanne Higgins. They both have tremendous talent; I knew that beforehand. The problem was that I couldnt believe them as a married couple because of their astronomical age difference in real life (he has to be at least 30, and I believe shes still a teenager). Even though the characters age 50 years throughout the production, I just wasnt buying the couple thing. Though their individual performances were wonderful in and of themselves, I kept fantasizing about how great it would be if they were each in their own production of this show starring opposite a better match for them but they worked well together from an acting standpoint. Their singing was superb, but it sounded to me like Ms. Higgins was starting to get tired during her solo number Flaming Agnes (or maybe she wasnt and Im just living on the moon). Whether she was getting hoarse or not, her voice was as strong as ever in Act 2.

In conclusion, the Holly deserves your attention. Their entire 2004 season already has entries of every show created on this site, so youll see when everything is playing. I hope youll decide to go and have a look for yourselves. Ill see you at Red, Hot, and Cole next month.

The Sanders Family Christmas, by Alan Bailey and Constance Ray
my review got eaten
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
I just wrote probably my longest and most specific review, and it got eaten because this site really sucks sometimes. I consider it to be my own damn fault this time (but still, this shouldn't happen) because this happened before and I didn't copy my review and save it somewhere else, but I will be doing that every time from now on...and this time, I mean it! Everyone please do that, so this doesn't happen to you. Do not trust this site.

Anyway, about the show, I really loved it, except I thought most of the monologues were too long and could have been condensed or gotten rid of entirely. There's my one-sentence review. You could have had a much better one.

-a very frustrated Okely Dokely

Annie, by
a step in the right direction
Saturday, December 6, 2003
Little General (or whatever they like to call themselves these days) is showing promise. I don't know what made me come back after seeing the abysmal "Christmas Carol" last week, but I'm kinda glad I did. They are on their way to being non-profit (pending IRS review), they've really cleaned up their lobby, and "Annie" - to my very pleasant surprise - had live musicians.

As a show, it was a very mixed bag. I don't know who played the title character, since there are 3 actresses who rotate in that role, but she was pretty emotionless and had a singing voice that was average at best. The best things I can say about her are that she moved well on stage, had a very firm knowledge of her lines (only one line flub that I caught), and seemed very sure of herself overall. Alan Stacy returns to the role of Daddy Warbucks. I usually don't mind him that much; he's got a competent acting ability and, also, a singing voice that is adequate. He has yet to annoy me with his frequent appearances in the theater's shows. He's a nice guy, does a lot for Little General, and is about as good as most of the people cast there. On to David Stephens, the musical director, who also played the roles of Bert Healy and FDR. I enjoyed him, the audience loved him, but the problem with him was that he didn't make the characters of Healy and FDR different enough from each other. It sounded pretty much like the same voice to me.

As I begin the paragraph where I talk about the music, let me first applaud the theater for making the step from that dreadful RehearsScore to actual music. They were good musicians, too, though the keyboard needs to be majorly turned down. From where I was in the front row, I literally couldn't hear a word that was sung during "I Think I'm Gonna Like it Here." And, this is not the fault of anyone involved in this production, but I grew very tired of the constant reprises of "Tomorrow" and "Maybe." On a good note, I LOVED the "Hard Knock Life" number.

Let me close with two more criticisms. Firstly, there's nothing that frustrates me more when I see a show than props that are mimed. I don't think it's too much of a hassle to get a random sheet of paper to use as an adoption paper for Miss Hannigan to sign, nor do I think it's a major hardship to find a champagne-like liquid to put in the glasses that certain characters toast with. And one more thing: please rehearse your curtain call. I'll just leave it at that. You know what I'm talking about. :)

A Christmas Carol, by
If you don't have anything nice to say...
Saturday, November 29, 2003
...then you mention the good things about a show, as few and far between as they may be - though I must say that the good things I mention are just that: good and not great. Nothing about this production blew me away in the least, but on to the positive aspects. First off, there's Randy Randolph's performance as Scrooge. He wasn't the best Scrooge I've ever seen (I've been very spoiled and have seen people like Tom Key play Scrooge), but I've seen Scrooges at better theaters than the Cobb Playhouse who were worse. And finally, there was Chris Camillo in his chilling portrayals of the Narrator, Jacob Marley, and the Ghost of Christmas Future, among other characters. The show opens with Camillo standing on a platform on Stage Left in partial light eerily delivering the oh-so-familiar "Marley was dead" prologue. The platform was a detail I liked. At least, I think it was a platform. I forgot to walk over during intermission and look at it, but it is not visible from most of the house, and gives the illusion that whoever is standing on it is suspended in mid-air, which was a very cool effect.

And.......that's the end of my short list of things I liked about Cobb Playhouse and Studio's "A Christmas Carol." In a production with out-of-key singing (even though it was all unison), little to no British accents at all, set changes that took forever, cast members far from in character, and missed entrances pretty badly covered, those few things mentioned above served as a pretty satisfying oasis amid a desert of a production that was, on the whole, very Little and General.

Crossing Delancy, by Susan Sandler
a fun, breezy night at the theatre
Monday, October 13, 2003
This was a good show. Not great or life-defining, but a worthy, safe community theatre production with a nice message and a cast with nary a weak link. I have seen and/or worked with just about everyone in the show, and they all gave their characters their absolute best. Good job Barbara and crew! Enjoy your post-closing rest.

Blood Brothers, by Willy Russell
thoroughly enjoyable and chilling despite the flaws
Monday, October 13, 2003
This was not a perfect production. I - like soaring and GaTallOne - was also at the Saturday performance on their opening weekend. (I wonder if I know either of them in real life.) Anyway, most of the actors went in and out of their accents, and one person in particular sounded Irish at times. There were also a couple of tech/lighting hiccups, where it would appear to begin going to another cue but quickly get corrected. Also, the balance of sound between the band and singers was good for only about 85% of the time. I attribute most, if not all, of these things to the fact that it was opening weekend, and they will probably get worked out as the run progresses.

Despite all this, I was genuinely touched and moved by the show, and I consider it to be one of Kudzu's very best. The real star of the show was the lighting - Tom Coleman's choice and use of colors was brilliant; even if it may have directed our emotions and told us how to feel a little too much, I overall didn't feel that manipulated.

Shaun Whitley plays Andy's twin brother. When he first appeared on stage and said a few lines, I thought he was wrong for the role. I thought this probably because of 3 things: I know he is several years younger than Andy, he has bleached blonde hair (which was combed very nicely in attempts to look naturally blonde), and thought his rich bass/bari voice couldn't handle the high notes. I very quickly forgot about all these things, and by the end of the show, thought there was no soul on earth that could have done it better. He got to wail on the tenor-friendly song "I'm Not Saying a Word." He handled the E's and F sharps with an admirable grace that exceeded my expectations. And believe it or not, he actually harmonizes higher than Andy The Obvious Tenor on their duets, and does it wonderfully.

The director/star was the best I've ever seen him, but my favorite performance came from Jason Meinhardt. As the Narrator (usually a thankless role, other than maybe Che in Evita), he had a stage presence and a voice that served as a natural spotlight, and, not to sound facetious, his smoking was done like someone very experienced at the craft. There were a total of 3 smokers in this show, and Jason was obviously the only "real" one. This show has had 3 reviews [counting mine] already, and so far, everybody loves Paige. And so do I. Not much else to say other than what's already been expressed, but as one of the best actresses I've seen recently, she was terrific as I knew she'd be.

To those not familiar with the music, I will warn them up front that there are really only 5 or 6 different melodies. Several songs have the exact same tune, just different lyrics and title, and a couple of them get repeated at least twice. You'd think this would turn people off, but it somehow works and makes you look for possible parallels in the songs. This is one of the top ten shows I've seen this year, and will likely be the best thing playing on the metro Atlanta stage - for at least a couple of weeks, anyway. I am recommending that EVERYBODY come and see this show and support these wonderful people - I promise you won't regret it. You're in for a real treat.

THE CIVIL WAR, by Frank Wildhorn
Scarlet Pimpernel Lite
Monday, October 6, 2003
I had heard lukewarm things at best about this production. I went to it with an open mind, and it didn't blow me away, but it wasn't nearly as disastrous as what I've heard through the grapevine. Frank Wildhorn's (The Scarlet Pimpernel) music is pretty good, but doesn't quite have the punch that "Scarlet" has.

I bet this show could be awesome if it was done at a regional theatre (like the Fox or the Alliance) with a more professional and experienced cast. I found, from reading the bios in the playbill, that this was the first show for many of the cast members. When they're all singing together, they sound heavenly - that is the big enigma of this show. The whole is vastly greater than the sum of its parts. Several individual voices were weak; there were at least two people with major pitch problems and one person with a wide, choppy, machine gun like vibrato which grated at my nerves, but when they did their group numbers, they suddenly became the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The highlight numbers for me were Judgement Day and Northbound Train.

I have enjoyed Sonny Goff's work in the past, but I found myself bored from the uninteresting staging. People just stood there, and right before the group numbers, they'd come out and systematically get into these trademark musical theatre We-Are-About-To-Sing formations.

There were two people sitting next to me that got up during intermission and did not return for the second act, but for those who toughed it out for the whole thing got a pretty decent show with a few touching moments and maybe about a handful of really great numbers. I bet their opening night performance (September 11) was quite emotional.

Scarlet Pimpernel: In Concert, by Wildhorn / Knighton
Onstage just keeps on topping itself
Friday, October 3, 2003
I have not enjoyed every show I've seen at Onstage Atlanta, but when they're "on", boy are they ever "on." As far as directing fabulous shows this year goes, Robert is 4 for 4. I had chills from the moment I arrived at the theatre early and heard the cast warming up. I saw Danny Cook play Miles Gloriosus and Jekyll/Hyde, and I would like to know when his album is coming out. Every time I see him I wonder more and more what the hell he is doing still in Atlanta when - with his heavenly voice - he could be anywhere. Whenever my girlfriend forgets his name, all I have to say to remind her is: "you know, that guy with like...the best voice ever" and she goes "oh yeah!" I am looking forward to seeing him take large steps once again in "Forum" at the Shakespeare Tavern in the spring.

It is refreshing to see that Jerrica Knight hasn't lost any of the special spark of talent she had back in her teenage high school years. My dreams have come true of being wowed once again by her. Equally impressive is Eric Catania as Percy, who was very appealing. The cast is incredible right down to the last ensemble member, and Linda Uzelac on the piano? I think that lady has at least 3 hands.

Onstage Atlanta, you have my very enthusiastic Bravo! Hold your head even higher and into the fire we go...

Moon over Buffalo, by Ken Ludwig
The Aurora Theatre has some big shoes to fill
Monday, August 18, 2003
This was not only surprisingly good, but the best show I have ever seen at Kudzu. Aurora is doing this show in January, and I think they should take this entire cast and transplant them into their production - they are that good.

The plot involves two middle-aged actors (the wonderfully animated Brink Miller and Pamela Maxwell) who are doing a 4-show repertory which includes Cyrano and Private Lives. I appreciated and understood all the Private Lives references after having just seen Aurora's production of it the night before. To make the transition from backstage to the Pvt. Lives set onstage, the set did things that I was hoping for but didn't dare expect to happen. I have underestimated the Kudzu Playhouse. The transformation from backstage to onstage was incredible, probably because you can't really tell from looking at the set that there is potential for it to change, which makes it all the more unexpected. I have liked every set I've seen at Aurora, but the element of surprise and unpredictability is gone because I've been able to easily spot exactly how the set is going to change.

Other special kudos go to Jason Meinhardt (who has been in every Kudzu show this season so far, will be in the next one, and will probably be in the last one - I have yet to get sick of him despite this), Larry Fairall, Brandy Rizk, and Patty Seibert, who was wonderful even if she seemed too young to be playing Brink's mother-in-law. I look all the more forward to Aurora's production - should be interesting to see how it pans out.

Private Lives, by Noel Coward
50/50 ratio of fun and yawns
Saturday, August 16, 2003
I don't have much to say about this show. It just didn't "do it" for me; can't really explain why, just not my personal cup, I guess. Parts of the plot, including most of the first act, were interesting and engaging, and Robert - as well as the rest of the cast - was wonderful as always, but I found myself being bored for about the other 50% of my time there. I had to splurge on some ice cream and a regular coke to keep myself from yawning any more. But you probably get my drift by now. I really dug the set, though. That was cool.

Art, by Yasmina Reza
an actor's dream
Saturday, August 16, 2003
This was my first time being exposed to "Art," though I have been aware of its accolades from London, its Best Play Tony victory in 1998, and the recent stagings at the Alliance and Off-Off Peachtree Theatre. Plus, one of my very favorite Atlanta actors (James Donadio) played Serge in a production of this at Florida's Hippodrome State Theatre. This is one of those shows that actors would foam at the mouth to act in - it is filled with fun, juicy dialogue that thespians love to sink their teeth into. ["Hurlyburly" by David Rabe is another example of an "actor's dream" play.]

Weighing in at an hour and 20 minutes with no intermission, "Art" is short, sweet, and never outstays its welcome. The plot involves Serge (Jonathan Serio)and his purchase of an incomprehensible white-on-white painting for $200,000, which greatly angers his two best friends Yvan (Jeffery Bigger) and Marc (Jody Pollage), and puts all their friendships to the test. All three performances were wonderful in their own ways, and these guys played off each other well. I have not seen a Centerstage North show since I acted there this time ten years ago, but I knew how frequently cast Pollage and Bigger were, and was skeptical and wondered if they really deserved all those roles, or if some major favoritism and theatre "incest" was being demonstrated. I would like to see more of these two guys, but for now, I can say that the former is the case.

On to my only gripe: a small detail concerning Jeffery Bigger's performance. I have never met him or even seen him offstage at all, so I don't know anything about him as a person, but he acted a little too flamboyant (in both voice and mannerisms) for me to totally buy into his character being engaged to a female. It pains me to say that, because he is such an amazing talent and presence on stage, but that element just needed to be toned down a bit. Aside from that, this was a superbly done production which made me wish I could have seen it on Broadway, or at the Alliance, or with my main man Donadio. I'm sure it was marvelous.

This is now on my list of shows I want to do someday.

Dames At Sea, by
cute production
Tuesday, August 5, 2003
This was a very cute production; maybe a little too cute, but I guess that was the point, so I didn't mind that much. I think I laughed out loud a few times, which takes a lot for me to even chuckle, as I have a strange sense of humor. Robert Egizio has staged a worthy production, but this doesn't have quite the punch that his recent "Rocky Horror Show" provided. I liken this to his 'Tunnel of Love', after "Rocky" was his 'Born in the USA.' Obviously well done, but couldn't help but be a slight step down after just having a megahit.

Perhaps it was the material. The songs were good, but forgettable. The final number of Act One - Good Times Are Here to Stay, I think it was called - had me whistling it in the restroom during intermission, but I couldn't even begin to recall it now. The set was very impressive, and I'd love to know if Ron Chenoweth bears any relation to Broadway veteren Kristen Chenoweth. Maybe someone can get back to me on that. Other special mentions go to Kristie Krabe, Chris Skinner, and Matt Carter (playing a drastically different role than the last show I saw him in), but Kudos all around. Overall, well done.

On Golden Pond, by
good show, bad theatre
Tuesday, August 5, 2003
I had a pretty bad case of the stuff that killed the cat, so I decided to make the journey to Marietta's Little General Playhouse to see my first show there. First of all, if you hear a curtain speech where the speaker essentially apologizes for the theatre (encouraging people to move up front if they can't hear the actors, volunteering some not-so-proud information i.e. the venue is a former Winn Dixie, etc.), then you will probably not feel very assured that your money was well-spent. The AC was run for the full duration of this 3 hour show, which made things very cold and loud, and caused most of the performers to be extremely hard to hear - to rather frustrating and awkward levels. Flies are mentioned numerous times throughout the play, and they were rampant in the house that night, too. Not to mention that their "arena" stage is just about the least conducive place to see/do a show; not every random room can be made into a theater.

That room makes for a horrible performance space, mosquitos were having a party in there, actors were way too quiet (often swallowing crucial lines), one person in particular was playing a 40-something character when they didn't look any older than a teenager, and the air conditioner sounded like a jet engine, but despite all that, this sweet show had moments of brilliance. This was my first time being exposed to any form of "On Golden Pond", and I loved it as a play. The script was just as funny as it was touching, and the 3 hours pretty much flew by. All the actor/resses had at least one good moment; some had more than others.

Just the fact that I've heard almost nothing but bad things about Little General Playhouse (or whatever the like to call themselves these days) makes me wonder how they are still in business. That's not meant to be as negative as it sounds - I salute them for finding some way to survive. I bet I will be back to see another of their shows sometime. I was surprised by this production, and I wouldn't be surprised if I get surprised by them again.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, by John Cameron Mitchell, Stephen Trask
Honey, I shrunk my...
Thursday, July 31, 2003
I'm not sure if I understood everything (not just the lyrics, but the meaning), but I loved this show. Mark Salyer gave many of my favorite local actors - with no disrespect intended - a run for their money. His performance has to be seen to be believed. Kudos are also in order for a guitarist in the band who, thoughout the night, had me guessing back-and-forth their gender, and to a really cute multitalented and multitasking young lady who played the keyboard, served the audience drinks, and did impressive things with cardboard cut-out figures under an overhead projector. Katy Carkuff was a pleasure to watch and hear.

I review films for a hobby, and I saw and wrote reviews for 144 movies the year that the movie version of "Hedwig" came out. Something turned me off from seeing the movie, and I unfortunately decided not to bother with seeing it. I will be seeing it now, as well as picking up the soundtrack ASAP. Perhaps then its buried structure will reveal itself and I will see it as something more than a really enjoyable cabaret show performed by a cross between Frank 'N Furter and Eddie Izzard's "executive transvestite."

Sunday In The Park With George: IN CONCERT, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
I hate it when you have to wait for things to grow on you
Monday, July 14, 2003
I didn't much care for this show, but it wasn't really the fault of anyone involved with this particular production. I'm just not much of a Sondheim fan, and the music in "Sunday" is probably the worst of his I've heard. The songs are often too long, too wordy, and they drone on and on with nary an interesting melody. In typical Sondheim fashion, this is probably a "grow on you" show, but if you have to listen to it a few times in order to like it, that's not a good sign, as I've found that most musicals have several songs that get in your head right away and make you end up humming them. "A Funny Thing...Forum" is, so far, the only Sondheim show that had lots of songs that grabbed me and were memorable the first time around. The only one in "Sunday in the Park..." that I really dug was "Putting it Together." Acting as a true abberation and a breath of fresh air (after all the monotonous "blue blue blue" nonsense), I found this number to be awfully catchy, and Tad did a fabulous job with it.

As George, Tad was very appealing and worthy of his starring role. He has a voice and a presence that makes me want to see more of him in the future - I certainly hope he's here to stay; let Broadway keep who they have now. His barking and oinking were very well done, too.

In the dual roles of Dot and Marie, Maura showed dimensions that I had previously not seen from her. Seemingly normally cast in soprano roles, she proved to have a hell of a belt voice as an alto. What an awesome set of pipes.

This is the second show that I've seen in Onstage's new location, and something needs to be done about the backstage noise. The actors' conversations before the show and during intermission were louder than that of the audience. Also, the night I was there, there were some techincal difficulties with the screen projection in the center wall, unless of course, the Toshiba logo randomly popping up was supposed to be a form of subliminal brainwashing. One other small gripe I had was with a couple of performers who broke character to a distracting level, by either having conversations while sitting in their seats onstage or during a freeze, or by getting into what looked like giggling fits while they are supposed to be frozen, but these are miniscule things which wouldn't have deterred me from giving a show a '5' rating had it earned it otherwise. I don't regret seeing this show, but I have, and will see better quality works from this theater. I am optimistic about the new season.

7/14/03 update: I edited this review because there was a spelling error that was bugging me. I didn't realize that editing your review brought it back up to the top of the review list. Kind of embarrassing, as this review seemed to cause some heat.

The Rocky Horror Show, by Book, Music and Lyrics by Richard O'Brien
I am still coming down from the natural high
Sunday, June 22, 2003
This was a fantastic production with a high-octane, incessant level of energy - the likes of which I haven't seen since the Shakespeare Tavern's "A Funny Thing...Forum." This is the second show I've seen this year that Robert Egizio directed, and I say without hesitation that it is just as wonderful seeing the result of his offstage work as it is to see the result of his onstage work. He is also at the helm of the upcoming "Dames at Sea" at Stage Door Players, and you can rest assured I will be there.

As can often be the case with stagings of musicals where the actors are not miked, I had some problems at times hearing the singers, as they were sometimes drowned out by the band. This is surprising, since I thought the sound balace of "Jekyll and Hyde" and "Sunday in the park..." were just fine. The closest thing I have to a gripe performance-wise came from Dan Bauman's Riff-Raff. Bauman has a good voice (I didn't even mind his Time Warp solo sung an octave lower - that's a hard solo), but his delivery of the spoken lines struck me as dull and emotionless. Maybe he and Robert decided on not giving the character the Richard O'Brien voice as to keep Riff-Raff fresh, and not a carbon copy of the original performance. That was possibly the intended idea, but I guess it just didn't "work" for me, as it came across a little on the bland side. I bet there are ways of giving the character personality without following in O'Brien's footsteps, but enough about that. Those minor grievances are just that - minor; and it obviously didn't deter me from awarding this show a perfect rating.

I have worked with Craig Waldrip before, and the one show I did with him was the only thing I had "seen" him in, until I saw this, and I am kicking myself in the ass for not seeing....oh, let's see...EVERYTHING HE'S EVER DONE BEFORE. Frank n' Furter is a role he's played before, and I'm glad I got to catch him this time around for his return to Transexual, Transylvania. He is one of my favorite local actors, and I hope to see more of him. I hope even more to appear with him again. I could write pages and pages about him, but I'll stop. I'll just say Tim Curry would be proud.

Other special kudos go to Scott Rousseau as the Narrator (though they need to get someone else to do the curtain speeches for the shows that Scott is peforming in, so he doesn't have to pull double duty), and Shawn Hale as a phantom in Act 1, and then Dr. Scott in Act 2. It seemed like the people in the light booth were the ones doing the most yelling at the actors, which makes me suspect that a lot of the "improvised" bits weren't really improvised, but that's cool with me. They had some good back-and-forth zingers. I have been a fan of the Picture Show for years, and I was able to give myself over to absolute pleasure as OSA presented my first time seeing the stage production, and it was a near-perfect show which exceeded my expectations. There is one more weekend left, so don't just read my review and dream it, be it.

Five Guys Named Moe, by A Musical by Clarke Peters Featuring Louis Jordan's Greatest Hits
second attempt at a review
Monday, May 26, 2003
I just wrote a long, eloquent, thorough review, only to have it eaten by the site. That has never happened before, but rest assured I will be on guard from now on and copy everything I write for in case it happens again. Let this be a heads up to all users of this site so the same thing doesn't happen to you. I just wanted to say that I adored this show and had a great time, with my only gripe being about the mediocre sound balance, which was surprising after "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" and "Christmas Canteen" didn't present any difficulty in hearing the voices, but with this show, the band drowned out the singers. But still, I am recommending this show to everyone I talk to. I did shows at the same building back when it had different management and was called the DownRight Theatre, and Anthony and Ann-Carol have improved on what was already an incredible place to see/do shows.

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, adapted by Christopher Sergel
Beautifully done
Saturday, March 22, 2003
This was my first time visiting "Mockingbird" since I played Dill in Centerstage North's production back in '93. Just like with GET's last show, I caught this one front row center (the people who made reservations ahead of time got worse seats than I did as a walk-in). I admired this production a lot, and liked how it wasn't too heavy on casting all the Georgia Ensemble "regulars." While I enjoy the familiar faces, it was nice to know the theatre doesn't appear to show favoritism. There were some projection problems (even from the front row) with a few actors' voices, but nothing too major. The 3 kids were okay, but not great, with the standout being the actor playing Jem.

As Atticus, the reliable gem that is Mark Kincaid put a nice spin on the role which fit very well. Even the Southern accent wasn't annoying, and his two monologues in the courtroom sequence were superbly delivered. The highlight of this show was the last 20 minutes. The climax gave me chills, and the lighting and staging were very appropriate for the mood.

I believe it's a sin (much like killing a mockingbird) that this theatre's shows don't run longer.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart
Interesting choices
Saturday, March 22, 2003
Even though I had a few minor issues with the production, it is still the best show I've seen in town (excluding anything at the Fox) in quite a while, and the best show I've seen all year, not counting The Lion King, but that's not a fair comparison to make. First, my gripes:

I thought Clark Taylor as Pseudolous was trying too hard to be Nathan Lane, and didn't really make the role his own - which frustrated me - but he was still good. I still believe, though, that the best Pseudolous I've seen on the live stage was Marty Ross's performance when Village Center Playhouse did it in '95. Seeing Clark Taylor made me miss Marty.

While I really loved the directing style of this show - the constant high energy - the bit where everybody's running around at once was a too long, tedious, and not that funny. But then again, all the shows I've seen with long periods of running around (like in a farce), I haven't found funny.

I was impressed with Brandon Odell as Hero - I had never seen the role played like that before. The director made some interesting choices in how to present this character. He's usually one of the few "straight" people in the show, but all his comic potential was played up in this version. And as for Jeff McKerley, one of my favorite local actors: I could write pages about him and how much I admire the guy, but I'll just say that he never ceases to amaze me. I considered going back and seeing the show again just to see him. But even the wonderful Jeff's performance wasn't perfect; like one of the other reviewers mentioned, I also thought that all the crotch-flashing and the sticking out of the tongue became severe overkill.

This show resonates in my mind to this day, and after seeing it, I do not want to be in a production of this show anytime soon, as it is an almost impossible act to follow.

Dial "M" for Murder, by Fredrick Knott
standard and by-the-numbers - nothing more, nothing less
Saturday, March 22, 2003
I simply couldn't get into this show. I found it long and pretty boring, and the blackouts between scenes took forever. I enjoyed Jason Meinhardt as did everyone else, and the murder scene was staged very well, but this will go down in my memory with all the other forgettable, disposable, mediocre theatre that we all have to wade through once in a while. I found myself looking at the cast list in the order of appearance and rejoicing when someone new appeared on stage for the first time. That's probably one of the signs that the show is not up to par if you get excited every time a new character enters.

I Hate Hamlet, by Paul Rudnick
a fine evening of theater
Friday, January 17, 2003
I caught GET's "I Hate Hamlet" last night front row, dead center. A plot synopsis is listed, so I won't bother with that. Anyway, I ran a theater in my basement about 8 years ago. I remember looking through the Dramatists Play Service catalogue with my best friend and co-owner of our little playhouse, and slating IHH for what we had hoped to be our next season. Neither of us had ever seen or read the show, but we picked it because the plot summary sounded funny. It turned out we didn't get to do any of our planned shows, and the basement theater folded after having only put on one production, which had a cast of 3. This means that IHH remained unseen - by me, at least - until last night. I did not go to Dunwoody Stage Door Players' staging of this show last fall, and I am certainly kicking myself in the ass for it now.

I haven't been to Georgia Ensemble in a while, and I am now reminded of how much I miss it, and how I saw a show there (The Fantasticks) which would become my favorite musical ever. Needless to say, I will be back for To Kill a Mockingbird, their next mainstage show. I like the "repertory-ness" of the theater, and how even though I've never met most of the regulars, I have gained a sense of pleasant familiarity with them. They are the reliable baseball glove that has seen me through many a successful season, and every show I go see, they are like old friends that I want to catch up with. I even have a favorite among them, and that favorite is James Donadio, who plays John Barrymore. While Donadio was a worthy Barrymore and did not disappoint, I suspect that Mark Kincaid (who has played the role before which, no doubt, inspired him to direct this production) would have had a more resonant presence, with his deep, booming voice versus Donadio's lighter, more tenor sounding quality. Bottom line, though: Donadio is always welcome in my book.

Patricia French - who I haven't seen in ages but am glad to know she's still in the Atlanta theater scene - plays Felicia. Her voice is deeper and more raspier than ever, thanks to probably thousands of cigarettes. While it pained me that she could never produce a clear sound with her voice the entire evening, the gravel in her delivery (think Carol Channing meets Joan Rivers) was hypnotically listenable, and she still has a perfect track record of good performances. Also notable is Damon Boggess as Andrew, who displayed top notch acting skills and had some very comical moments which actually made me laugh, which is something I don't often openly do at a play.

I am glad that I have finally seen this show, and hopefully after reading this review, you'll know that "to view or not to view" is no longer a question.

Christmas Canteen 2002, by Scott F. Rousseau
Saturday, December 21, 2002
This was a very good production with a lot of talent. This was my second time seeing this show. The last time I saw it was in '97, and it was a little better that year, but this year's version had a totally different spin, so I give props to Scott Rousseau/the Aurora staff for doing some major revamping and keeping it fresh.

I don't think there was a weak link in the cast. Andy Meeks - an actor who I've worked with - was a pleasure to watch and hear. He has a singing voice that was just right for this show's style of music. The biggest standout for me, though, was Robert Egizio. Though I had heard a lot about him, I had never seen him in anything before, but I couldn't take my eyes off him. He has a stage presence, voice, and grace that channels Tommy Tune, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly. I hope to see a lot more of him in the future.

As usual, the harmonies and choreography were top notch, but I was trying to settle into what would have been the highlight of the show; a beautiful rendition of Silent Night, but I was sitting near an elderly gentlemen who felt the need to hum along. Problem was, he couldn't carry a tune with even the best tune-carrying device ever created. But I guess that shows how much the show translated to the audience, if people were compelled to join in and sing along.

All in all, this was a production well worth checking out, and I'm sorry to all of those who missed it.

Blood at the Root
by Dominique Morisseau
University of West Georgia Theatre Company
Murder Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
by E. Xavier Wheeler
Laughing Matters
Almost, Maine
by John Cariani
Centerstage North Theatre
BattleActs! Comedy Improv Competition
Laughing Matters
Blood at the Root
by Dominique Morisseau
University of West Georgia Theatre Company
Daddy Long Legs
by John Caird (book) and Paul Gordon (songs)
The Legacy Theatre
Laughing Matters Winter Wonder Laughs
Laughing Matters
Midnight at the Masquerade
by The Murder Mystery Company
The Murder Mystery Company in Atlanta
Murder Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
by E. Xavier Wheeler
Laughing Matters
Stories on the Strand
Atlanta Radio Theatre Company
The Bachelor! A Double Date of Death!
by Marc Farley
Agathas: A Taste of Mystery

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