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REVIEWERS SIX DEGREES
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Companies Reviewed#
Holly Theatre2
Actor's Express2
Button Theatre1
Stage Two Productions1
Stage Door Players1
St. Mark UMC Fine Arts Drama Ministry1
7 Stages1
Average Rating Given : 4.56250
Reviews in Last 6 months :
REVIEWS

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, by Frank Loesser and ABe Burrows
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
4.5
(REQUIRED DISCLAIMER: Not affilated with this show or theatre, know a few people in the cast...)

In the last few shows both playgoer and I have reviewed, I see a trend. Playgoer and I view the same show very differently and have pretty much opposite reactions.

While I will agree that Scottie Rowell embodied Bud Frump, he is not the only spark in the show...

I thought Mr. Tate's choices of tempos were not too slow, but actually dead on for the familiar tunes of an oldschool show like H2$. The diction was crisp and clear, and the tempos worked well for the dances. I was never bored with any musical number. I particularly enjoyed Brotherhood of Man which is not even mentioned in the previous review, nor is Ms. Simpson, who was another excellent "spark" in her portrayal of Jonesey. (Being a musician, both singer and accompanist, I am always honest in my review of musical elements and would not have hesitated to say so if this show suffered.)

The choice to use or not use microphones was not that of the actors, but the director. I never felt that was a bad decision. Many productions suffer from poor amplification, static, etc. (even professional shows), but I thought the use of microphones was appropriate and the balance between orchestra and singers was good and consistent. I did not hear anyone holding back and letting the microphones do the job (trash in - trash out, just saying I heard no trash). I did not hear static or feedback.

The choreography was spot on and added to the energy (another spark) of the show IMO. The ensemble did a great job with the dances and movement in spite of a small cast and very limited set design.

I do not agree that the set pieces and design were good choices ... in fact that was the weakest part of the show, combined with unimaginative use of space. I would have liked to see a totally different office setting for JB that did not have the same art on the wall and the "elevator" doors opening into it directly (same for mailroom and board room). I tired of the tables and chairs being the same, even though they were moved about a lot. Thank goodness that the executive "washroom" did not stay the same. That scene would have worked better with the same sink unit they used and a change of lighting to make the background not look the same as every other scene. The basic set worked for the general office area scenes and dances, but "got old" as the show continued and it never moved or changed.

As far as costuming, excellent, but over the period of time of the show, it would have been nice to see the men (including Finch) in something different (even change of shirt/tie???) and Rosemary's dresses needed to be different. Adding or removing a jacket did not make us think it wasn't that same dress we just saw on her. I enjoyed the variety of the ensemble ladies' dresses. (period appropriate and good use of colors)

I agree with playgoer about the Paris Original dresses and was expecting something really different (original). It would have added to the humor of the number had the outfit been more outrageous... (A hat would have been a great way to accessorize the ensemble.)

I think most of the main characters were well cast, including Christina Haak, Bob Barry, Ali Gutierrez (hair included, BTW excellent job on Company Way) as well as the aforementioned Mr.'s Haak and Rowell, and Ms. Simpson. Jeri Hughes did a fine job as Smitty, Rosemary's companion and confidant. The ladies of the ensemble were particularly convincing with their antics, gossip, etc. and also added more of that spark I saw. I do think that Ms. Moore could have played LaRue more in an "over the top" fashion, but was no slouch in her part.

I agree with the previous review about the age of some of the actors, particularly the men, being young but assume that this was the pool of talent. Directors choose from the ones who auditioned. At least there was no attempt to prematurely age the younger guys to look older in a cheesy and fake way.

I was not surprised that this looked like a community theatre show. It is a community theatre, not a professional one.

Playgoer takes a more technical approach to review, I more artistic.
To each his own...

As usual, my two cents is overspent,
Ben A.

Driving Miss Daisy, by Alfred Uhry
Damn, I can't believe I missed this, oh yeah, it's not real
Thursday, September 10, 2009
-1.0
I would pay good money to see this one. Alas it is not real!

Ben

Grey Gardens, by Book: Doug Wright; Music: Scott Frankel; Lyrics: Michael Korie
How Grey was My Garden? Pretty Grey I'd say.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
4.5
Having only seen this musical version, I can only comment on that performance with no pre-conceived notions of the storyline. I intend to see the movie and documentary now to learn more.

I greatly enjoyed the performance last night from all the actors on stage. I disagee with the previous reviewer since I feel the "ensemble" characters were dead on in each of their roles. I particularly enjoyed the singing from all characters and felt every character was real and was appropriately played.

The mother-daughter relationship was well portrayed in Act I by Ms. Hames and Ms. Turner and successfully carried through in Act II by Ms. McManus and Ms. Hames. I feel this is the most critical idea to express in the work, and it was clearly the strongest part of the show I saw at AE. The element that caught my interest was the fast-paced bickering sometimes even breaking out in song between the two in both Acts. For me, this tied the two relationships together to make them more believable and acceptable for the older Big and Little Edie characters in Act II.

Act I was fast paced, upbeat, glamorous, and witty, and painted a clear picture of the family dynamics of the Bouvier household in 1941 which contrasted rather abruptly with the slower, darker, "greyer" aspects of Act II set in 1973. I felt the foreshadowing of the ultimate ending midway through Act II, I think partly due to the storyline and diaglogue, but perhaps more due to the relationship displayed through the characters as portrayed by Hames and McManus.

Musically, the choice for Gould was superbly cast with Mr. Monroe who gave us a true sense of the character not only through his acting and singing talent, but with his keyboard skills onstage as well. Bravo Mr. Ashley for casting him in that particular role.

The young girls of the cast (Abby Goldberg and Katie Hollenshead) held their own throughout the show and added to the family portrait. David Howard did a fine job as both the servant for the family in Act I (Brooks Sr.) and the gardener in Act II (Brooks Jr.). He portrayed the sense of a totally different time and place from 1941 to 1973 and made each of his characters fit the appropriate period. Mr. McGough also gave us two distinctly different and well played characters to enjoy in Kennedy and Jerry. Mr. Benson also showed versatility in portraying both the patriarch of the Bouvier clan and inspiring radio personality Norman Vincent Peale equally well. There is a fine line to walk in playing two different characters in the same play, but each of the cast members charged with the task made it work very well.

I heartily reccommend this show not so much as a "regular" musical, but certainly one that will make you think as you exit the theatre. If nothing else works for you in this show, at least you have to admit that Jerry does like Big Edie's corn. I did too.

The only complaint I had was the volume of sound (both from the actors and the orchestra) for Act I. There was simply too much sound for the venue. After a brief microphone problem with the opening number for Ms. Hames in Act II, the sound became more appropriate for the space and I never noticed another issue.

Pippin, by Stephen Schwartz
After "Glow"
Friday, July 31, 2009
4.5
(I saw the Thursday night 7/30 performance and had only the original Broadway version in my head from many years ago.)

Music: Linda Uzelac and BJ Brown : A+ (Duh!) BJ needs to be credited for 2nd AND 3rd keyboard playing (at the same time, one hand on each ... WOW). Linda was wonderful as always. Percussion from Chip Coursey was supportive and never overpowering.

Direction: Robert Egizio does it again. This man can direct! His choreography background shows in his placement of the players, blocking, movement, and every other aspect of the show.

Choreography: Excellent work from Jen MacQueen. If you enjoy seeing dance, this is the show for you.

Cast:
Will Bradley gives an innocent (in every meaning of the word) portrayal of the prince who would be king. His voice is never harsh (singing or speaking) and to me makes a perfect Pippin. Idealistic, hopeful, questioning ... all there. Corner of the Sky and Love Song were his best IMO. The audience was always routing for him.

Rachel D. White is spectacular in her grasp of the stage and audience in her No Time At All number as Berthe, grandmother to Pippin. What a powerhouse she is and so fun to watch on stage! She owns the stage when she performs. The sing-along with the audience was truly a highlight of the evening.

Craig Waldrip delivers his usual brillance as Charlemagne with stylized hair and makeup that reminded me of his Rocky Horror portrayal of Frank N. Furter. He can express so much with his eyes and body language in addition to his clear, crisp diction and pleasant singing. I enjoyed his War Is A Science particularly.

Josh Donahue played a very real dufus half brother Lewis to Pippin. His unusual and hilarious expressions and posture indicated his grasp of the character. He was not only the perfect suck-up to his father, but also the classic momma's boy and even incestuous partner to Denise Arribas (Fastrada, his mother). Ms. Arribas was exciting to watch with her often explosive energy. I have never liked the number Spread A Little Sunshine, but I really enjoyed her rendition.

Catherine (Courtney Foster) showed a range of emotions from clueless airhead to affectionate, caring mother to passionate partner, switching back and forth throughout. She had a pleasant sounding voice both singing and speaking and reacted perfectly to the Leading Player's interference.

Theo (Robert Norris in the show I saw) showed great maturity for a boy of 10. He has a nice clear singing voice (heard in the reprise of Corner of the Sky). Although not on stage for long, he was always a presence when in a scene. This kid is one to watch.

I agree somewhat with playgoer's review in that the Leading Player (Charles Calvello) was much more a dancer than a singer, but I disagree after that point. He clearly did have a certain control element and added the little extra touch of magic to the production. I found him visually very interesting whenever he appeared. His body language, posture, mannerisms and spoken vocal choices added greatly to the production. (much like Puck in MidSummer Night's Dream)

I always leave the cast chorus members for last. Theirs is sometimes a thankless job, but most have nice individual moments to shine and support the show this time. Pippin provides many opportunities for them to do just that in playing a myriad of characters. Bravo, ensemble!

Lighting effects (esp. Morning Glow, some of the more intimate moments and the Finale) were great. Sets by Chuck Welcome earned him another A+ (it's Chuck again, y'all). Sound was consistent and balanced throughout.

Thanks, Stage Door for taking me back to my memories of the original show while sharing your own updated take on Pippin.

Suddenly Last Summer, by Tennessee Williams
Southern Skeletons in the Closet
Friday, April 3, 2009
5.0
It was my pleasure to enjoy the industry night performance Wednesday April 1, of this production. Brad (Dedalus) has written a most elegant review for the Buzz which will appear here shortly, I assume. I cannot hope to write anything so perfect (really, it is), so my offering here is to let you know that you need to make plans NOW to see this.

The thing I like about Tennessee Williams in general, is that no matter how bad your own family is, Mr. Williams can play and win the I Can Top That game. The characters, well crafted by the writer, are superbly played.

Shannon Eubanks is the quintessential Southern widowed matron Violet Venable, full of money, disdain and piety. Her refusal to see her son's life and untimely death in anything but a glorified sainthood application is really incredible. Although Sebastian is already deceased when the play begins, she provides a clear image of him for us all to ponder. She is real, gutsy and determined in her portrayal.

Dr. Cucrowisz, represented by Joe Sykes, never really expresses his own opinions (how doctor-like), but keeps us guessing his true motives in his visit to the Venable estate. It is hard to stay in character, without having a lot of dialogue, but Mr. Sykes does it well. His reactions are the key to his role. He listens quite a bit but gives us little verbal feedback. Therefore, this is a thinking play, where we have to fill in the details. How refreshing in our day to still be able to think for ourselves without everything being given and told to us.

Catharine Holly, played by Kate Donadio, is the resident crazy cousin of the deceased who was the last person to see Sebastian alive. Her performance ranges from lucidity to panic and back without apparent effort. She owns this one. You just have to see it to appreciate it.

The seedy family members are from Mr. Venable's side of the family as Violet is quick to point out. (They remind me of Ms. Hannigan and Rooster from Annie, scheming to get as much money as they can before a hasty exit from the manor.) Violet holds the purse strings and manipulates them and the doctor like puppets, controlling the entire situation. Jo Howarth and Bobby Labartino are very well-suited to play these money-grubbing relatives. Again, not so much dialogue from them, but they provide us with plenty of facial expressions and other forms of non-verbal communication to broadcast their thoughts to the audience and signals to each other.

The nurse and servant complete the ensemble and support this fine cast. The set, although minimal, is perfect to frame the action. Kudos also go to the effects achieved through light and sound. Pay close attention, since these techy things can easily be missed with the strong acting skills on display.

As always, AE come through with a new twist on a classic. Melissa Foulger's direction gives us a great peek through the window at the deep South and its
quirky residents. Also to Ms. Foulger's credit, the timing ... wait for it ... heightened the delivery of the lines and the opportunity for the audience to digest a very heavy story.

Ben

Anything Goes!, by Cole Porter
Mixed Bag
Thursday, November 15, 2007
4.0
Huge Cole Porter fan here and I have been in this show before. With that out of the way... My feelings on this production are mixed. I attended the Wed Nov. 14 show with a sold-out crowd who enjoyed the show very much. It was obvious that this group is well-supported by the church and community.

PROS
Costumes and Choreography - Both outstanding throughout!
Performances - Erica Clausen, Paul Holland, Cory King, Mary Keith Lee, Paul Pisanick and Amanda Pickard were spot on as were the majority of the minor roles and the entire chorus of salors and passengers.

CONS
Casting Concerns - I felt that Russell Rhodes (while a legit triple threat in his own right) was simply too old to play a convincing Billy based on the casting of Hope. What worked very well for the Sir Evelyn/Hope age difference worked the against the chemistry for Billy & Hope. Michelle Jones was a viable actress and dancer but just did not have that extra oomph (is that a word?) for the brassy Reno in her singing. Although I will say she was battling a VERY LOUD orchestra at times, to her credit and the microphones were only intermittently working. The Angels worked together well enough, but needed to be closer to the same body type and age. There were noticeable differences among this quartet which should be all the same. The blond wigs were a nice touch, but not quite enough to pull it off. Some obviously had more dance talent than others as well.
Orchestra - Balance was already mentioned, nuff said. Get your guitar/banjo player something decent to wear. The other guys looked very sharp in their tuxes while he stuck out in his polo shirt and jacket.
Microphones - as previously mentioned. They need to work. Period.

HIGHLIGHTS
Moonface - Be Like the Bluebird, Mrs. Harcourt singing generally throughout the show (unexpected, yea!), Billy and Hope - All Through the Night (which I usually despise) was simply charming and perfect, and all the tap numbers. Also the chemistry between Moonface and Bonnie was excellent.

DISMAL
The repeated sailor number for the scene changes was clever the first time and cute the second. After that the audience wanted less (MUCH LESS). Simple instrumental music would have worked for the shorter changes as the show progressed.

Before I get a lot of hate mail, please note how many things I liked about the show. Do not focus only on the negative, but take those honest comments in the spirit given.

My two cents is way spent now,
Ben

Chicago, by Kander and Ebb
Thunder Stolen
Friday, October 12, 2007
5.0
I agree with the most recent review on so many points about Chicago at the Holly Theatre.

Outstanding areas:
Director use of space - Excellent use of steps, levels, entrances/exits, scene changes, staging, blocking. The stage does not strike me as "tiny." I felt the show NEVER dragged, but moved seamlessly from scene to scene. "Razzle Dazzle" mentioned earlier certainly had no specific focus, but rather a mesmerizing effect (so Billy-like and correctly staged IMO).

Leads - I did not see a weak lead in this cast. Velma and Roxie made a great pair of dueling divas and each held her own. Mama - Brava, just what I wanted to see. Amos - Perfect for this role, both in choice of casting and the look/portrayal of the meek but toally lovable Amos. I agree with the comment about the musicians paying no attention to him being a perfect ending for his "exit." Billy - not the typically chosen type, but no slouch in the role. His singing and characterization were dead on. Mary Sunshine - Wonderfully campy and added so much to the role.

Ensemble - Excellent way to support the show and take care of all the stage business. I particularly enjoyed All That Jazz, Cell Block Tango and Justin Green's hilarious jury members.

Choreography - Appropriate and exciting throughout the show. This is true for leads and the ensemble numbers as well. Kudos to Velma on the high kicks. It was good to see strong dancing from the men.

Music - Exactly what we need from the instrumentalists. Thanks for a great job supporting the cast in every number. Diction was consistently good throughout the show. Since so much of the story and the majority of the tongue-in-cheek humor is in the music, you pulled this off well too. "Class" is my favorite number and this was no exception.

Negative point - Tiny, tiny complaint about balance sometimes between the singers and band. Either the mics were not working, or not picking up on a couple of places in some numbers, notably the opening of Act 2 when Velma sings "Imagine". Perhaps it is her upstage position that caused that problem? Not sure.

Nice job cast. I look forward to more from you.

Sincerely,
Ben

P.S. Moonie, it was nice to meet you last night.

Company, by
Great Company Here!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
5.0
Both in the acting troupe sense and companionship definition...

I had somehow missed this one even though I have been around musical theatre for many, many years. Funny how things I grew up experiencing and knowing about firsthand are starting to be classified as antiques or oldschool...

Even though Company has been around, like me, for a long time, it still has a message for today. A very strong group of singers has assembled for this show and you will not be disappointed if you are a Sondheim fan. There is no weak link in this production even though it contains some very difficult music. I heard strains of other Sondheim works here and there in these pieces. Most of you probably know Being Alive, The Ladies Who Lunch and Side by Side, but there are a number of other gems in this work.

Voices and piano merge to create a powerful message about relationships. The production is well-staged, the diction is clear, harmonies and dissonance are treated equally well, and the show is a true accomplishment on all counts.

Kudos to Stage Two Productions, director Bill Mahlandt and music director Dennis Lewallen for a memorable evening. Where did you ever find your virtuoso level accompanist? She is rare indeed to make this notoriously complex Sondheim score look easy to play. Thanks for the clever way you included her in the curtain call. She deserved it.


My Fair Lady, by Book and Lyrics by ALAN JAY LERNER, Music by FREDERICK LOEWE, "Adapted from George Bernard Shaw's Play and Gabriel Pascal's motion picture 'PYGMALION
Worth the Trip
Saturday, July 14, 2007
4.0
I recently saw this production and enjoyed it. MFL is not an easy show to produce. What a nice use of the stage and creative set changes! Costumes were well-fitted and appropriate throughout. I especially enjoyed the spectacle of the Ascott scene.

I agree that the instrumentalists were weaker than I expected for the Holly. I have read many nice reviews of the music in their shows on this site and was expecting a better overall sound from the orchestra. I also noticed several ragged entrances which I feel were caused by singers not properly hearing the orchestra cues or not working through those cues enough. (That is my basis for the rating of 4.) I strongly feel that the accompaniment must support the show rather than detract from it.

Singing was first rate, except I was disappointed to not hear some of the harmonies at times, (i.e. Loverly). The exceptions were the servant choruses which were always well-balanced. Solosits were generally right on with their diction and pitch. "You Did It" was not up to par with the rest of the show, but still not horrid by any means.

I thought both Henry and Eliza were portrayed in a believable manner and the intensity between them was well-motivated. I agree that Grimshaw's characterization of Higgins did mimic Rex Harrison's, but I feel that he added touches to make the performance his as well. His acting was strong and his diction was perfect (as it must be when portraying a linguist). Moonie, you were really excellent. Thanks for a great portrayal which reminded me of a young Julie Andrews in the part. << DISCLAIMER: I am not a friend of Moonie's and have never even met her. >>

Yes, Pickering is nicer to Eliza and relates more to her. He is SUPPOSED to. He is a pleasant man who cares about the feelings of others. On the other hand, Henry is essentially a horse's behind and ironically refers to himself as pleasant, humble, perfect, etc. ad nauseum throughout the play from start to finish. That is what makes this such a great show. The dialogue is as strong and essential to the plot as the music.

Special mention must be paid to Mrs. Pearce, Pickering, Mrs. Higgins, Alfred and Freddy for their characterizations and nice extra touches they brought to the stage.

Ensemble, I saved you for last. Bravo for supporting this cast and really enjoying yourselves which showed on your faces. It is hard to be in a "chorus" role. You are the true heros here.

Folks, this is what I call a real COMMUNITY theatre group. I wish I lived closer so that I could be involved in a production. There is a great deal of charm about this place. It has a nice old-timey small town atmosphere which shows.

To paraphrase a trite commercial ...
Cost of ticket $15.00.
Cost of gas $10.00 (shared a ride).
Cost of experience ... priceless.

P.S. I can't wait to see Chicago at the Holly. It is one of my favorite shows and I think your venue is perfect for the show.

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