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The Harvey Milk Show

a Musical
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by Patrick Hutchison and Dan Pruitt

COMPANY : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. (Decatur) [WEBSITE]
ID# 3532

SHOWING : October 09, 2009 - November 21, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

The Harvey Milk Show
by Atlanta's own Patrick Hutchison & Dan Pruitt


"Burst down those closet doors once and for all and stand up and start to fight!"

The Harvey Milk Show is based on the life and death of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to the San Francisco city council in 1977. This poignant, fictionalized love story recounts some of the struggles and triumphs of the early gay political movement while letting us know there's "...so very, very much left undone". This tragic, yet inspiring play is sure to enliven your sense of community, justice and responsibility.


Friday & Saturday at 8:00 pm Sunday at 3:00 pm

No performances weekend of October 30th- November 1st


RESERVATIONS: www.onstageatlanta.com for online reservations, or call (404) 897-1802


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Barbara Cole Uterhardt
Choreographer Colleen Gaenssley
Music Director Patrick Hutchinson
Lighting Designer Harley Gould
Stage Manager Angie Short
Set Designer Darrell Wofford
Drums & Percussion L. Gerard Reid
ensemble Pat Bell
Dan White Jeffery Brown
ensemble Joey Ellington
John LaMichael Hendrix
Mr. Jones Luis Hernandez
ensemble Patrick Hill
Jamey Bryan Lee
ensemble Charlie Miller
Mr. Murphy DeWayne Morgan
Dee Greg Morris
Mrs. Murphy Cathe Hall Payne
ensemble Renee Najour Payne
Patricia Amanda Leigh Pickard
Harvey Milk Geoff Uterhardt
ensemble Barry N. West
Heather Kristel Wunderlin
ensemble Camilla Zaepfel
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Let Your Light So Shine Before Men
by Mama Alma
Monday, November 16, 2009
5.0
Reviewer's Note: Having seen this production a second time, on a night when major cast members were NOT sick, I'm going to have to nudge it back up to a "5." The execution was sharp, the singing superb, and I was more impressed than ever with Bryan Lee. Frankly, by the end I was crying like a little girl. I stand by my original assessment that if you want the Harvey Milk Story, you need to watch the movie, but this, the Harvey Milk Show, is a beautiful testament to the dream of one of America's true heroes.

My original review (of a show I found out later had been remastered because of cast illness) follows:

This is not the Harvey Milk Story – we actually don't learn a lot more about Harvey Milk than we knew when we started – a New York Jew, he eventually landed in the Castro District of San Francisco and made several unsuccessful runs for office, but eventually won, becoming the first openly gay public official in California (one of the first in the nation). This is the Harvey Milk "Show," "show" in the sense of a demonstration, a model of a way to live.

The "story" part of this Show, its emotional heart, is carried by the character Jamey, a composite Everyman. It's Jamey's family, his fears, his losses, his loves we learn about. When we first meet him, he's singing a hustler's song "Wouldn't You Really Like to Dance with a Cowboy," a minor inversion of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," the song that opens Oklahoma (you remember Oklahoma, where everything is OK). Discarded by his father, Jamey finds a surrogate in Milk and slowly (albeit with much drunken backsliding) learns to make his own Family and define Home for himself. Bryan Lee projects an angry vulnerability as Jamey that makes this journey moving. It's not necessarily a gay story, although Jamey is gay. It is an intensely human story, about finding the courage to be your own self and live your own life. This, then, is the Harvey Milk Show, the Harvey Milk legacy.

Geoff Uterhardt as Harvey Milk was, I'll admit, a surprise. He's schooled most of the "Googie" out of this performance, done something with hair pieces and makeup to make himself look older and his features darker – I thought he captured the "look" if not the actual appearance of Milk. But the real revelation was the accent. I have no gift for this kind of thing myself, but I do have an appreciative ear. The accent wasn't so harsh as to be annoying or not understandable, but it definitely gave one the impression that even among outsiders, Milk was an outlier, and he catches, I think, the quality of joy and authenticity present in Milk's life.

Some of the best scenes are between Milk and Jamey, with the two opposed methods of dealing with ostracism: Jamey all angry bravado, Milk all determined activism. The best of this crop of scenes is the elegiac number "Young Man" which Milk posthumously reprises as he passes the charge to Jamey to get out and do something to remake the world. It's a battle cry which has resonated through the years, surfacing most recently as "Got Hope?" and "Yes We Can." (Personally, I couldn't listen to "We, the People" without thinking of the last presidential election, but "Young Man" is Harvey's personal challenge.) Jamey's stance at play's end, hands in back pockets, echoes his cowboy salvo from the opening, but his attitude and his world have changed, because of Harvey's example, and he faces the future with calm determination.

Jeffrey Brown is a strong choice for the role of Dan White. As his mentor Mr. Jones says, he has the "right look," the clear eyed, noble chinned, square shouldered All American golden boy. For a time White and Milk are able to play off each other, but eventually White's simplistic view of the world, they way things are supposed to be (which is, by definition, the way they've always been before) is his undoing. As the world changes, and White loses his footing, Mr. Jones is able to twist him to his own venomous purpose in the cleverly dark "Swarm" during which he produces the murder weapon in a kind of metaphysical legerdemain.

The real standout is the Evil Personified Mr. Jones: Luis Hernandez is the consummate villain, whether playing a kind of demented Henry Higgins, grooming Dan White for politics, or strolling whistling, cigar in hand, through the fire and carnage he's created after the White "Twinkie defense." I've seen Hernandez in several "mogul" roles and he seems to have perfected the "holier than thou, I can squash you like a bug without ruining my manicure" expression. He is priceless, and much scarier in his suave sophistication than any slavering psycho.

The set's best attributes are the line drawings of the Castro District and City Hall flanking the stage. However, the minimalist panels were used to great effect for a grotesque shadow work during the chilling "Swarm." This was easily the most disturbing image of the play, indeed, one of the most disturbing things I've seen in a long time, and I found myself wishing that the mob beating in "Having Ourselves a Party" in the first act had been handled with the same intense savagery.

One other area where the set did not disappoint was during "Anthem." As the cast gathers for a candlelight vigil, the backdrop lights up with scores of tiny lights, giving the illusion of a mass of mourners snaking up the hills of San Francisco. Later, when Milk sings to Jamey about believing in miracles and reaching for the stars, the lights evoke an earthly Milky Way.

Quite by accident the day after I saw The Harvey Milk Show I caught the last hour of Outrage, a documentary about closeted gay politicians who use the power of their position to persecute the gay community (usually, it's felt, as a way of deflecting inquiries about themselves or denying their own sexuality). How odd to have these two bookends, the openly gay life lived in service, not only to his gay constituents, but to all people, contrasted with these closeted lives devoted to destruction, most especially of themselves.

I once heard Harvey Milk say that everything he ever did was for the gay cause. With respect, I'd have to disagree with him. Harvey Milk fought for the human cause, and The Harvey Milk Show shines a light on that struggle, and invites us all to pick it up.
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OnSatge lost is't voice!
by Steven52
Sunday, November 8, 2009
0.5
There is no question that the performance of The Harvey Milk show was a big step backward for Onstage Atlanta and Barbara Cole-Uterhardt. I think the weakest thing about the show was that 85% of the cast was miss-cast and either undirected or misdirected by Barbara Cole-Uterhardt. She seemed too focused on Harvey the person, rather than seeing a bigger picture---being the impact he made on society and politics. Uterhardt neglected the other 25 people in the cast, leaving them to their own devices, which in turn was distracting and pulled focus.
I have read other reviews that said Harvey was barley in the show titled after him. I believe the show should reflect the effect that this man had on a group of people, and the impact he made in a community. Therefore the show becomes more about a feeling, rather that a person. Its no secret that Barbara has cast her husband in the past 3 musicals at Onstage. Surely there are other actors capable and willing to be cast in lead roles, however, perhaps they haven’t been awarded the opportunity.
This is not a show that speaks just about just Harvey Milk specifically, but to a community. Oddly, the show is around gay pride, but sadly speaks to nothing but Geff Uterhardt’s ego. Other shows in Onstages recent past gave them a “sounding box” in this community it is such a shame that this show didn’t get the same attention. It’s a possibility that
Theatre in Atlanta is dyeing for many reason, one of with is narcissism perhaps Onstage could stand a wakeup call in that department. The rose colored glasses that Onstage has for Uterhardt just might need to be taken off.
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Wow by MrPurple
While I agree that this show was not up to the standards of Wild Party Or Urinetown, I think it a bit premature toact as though Ms. Utterhardt has lost her skills. First remember, a director is working with the hand they are dealt. Maybe she brought the ensemble a long way. I think one show cannot define a director, theatre company or actor.
Nepotistical Casting by playgoer
If Geoff Uterhardt slept with the director of "The Harvey Milk Show" in order to get the lead role, at least he had the moral fiber to marry her first!
Ultimately Satisfying
by playgoer
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
4.5
"The Harvey Milk Show," now playing at Onstage Atlanta, concerns the political rise of Harvey Milk in San Francisco city government. It reminded me in ways of the Pulitzer-winning musical "Fiorello," which similarly traces the career of an underdog in local politics. While "Fiorello" takes place and reflects the sensibilities of WWI-era New York, "The Harvey Milk Show" captures the feel of the mid-1970's gay rights movement. Consequently, the tone is more raw and ultimately more tragic than that of "Fiorello."

The physical production is unappealing. The set consists of a number of hinged flats, all in milky white, that occasionally move to define spaces and are used most effectively for back-lit shadow play. They appear flimsy and a bit slapdash, so it's not the visuals of the show that will win you over.

The performances are all good or better, and they all work in service of the script and songs, which are what will ultimately win you over. The ensemble vocals are wonderful, particularly when staged to flank the audience. The choreography is effective, particularly in the early "Good Morning San Francisco" number, which I didn't care for much until the choreography grouped the residents of the stage in a momentary tableau. The razzmatazz steps of Geoff Uterhardt in the second act opener helped propel the show too.

The show is anchored by the character of Jamey, a teen kicked out of his Tyler, Texas home by an anti-gay father. Jamey opens the show with the melodic waltz "Doesn't Anybody Want to Dance with a Cowboy?" The gritty setting is at odds with the lovely melody, but it reflects the off-putting behavior of Jamey, who has sweetness hidden inside. More overt sweetness is added by Jamey's younger sister Patricia, who eventually travels to San Francisco after a sung correspondence with her brother. Bryan Lee seems a little lightweight as Jamey, but he has a pleasing voice and perfectly embodies the youth of his character. Amanda Leigh Pickard gives a winning portrayal of Patricia, both in her singing and her acting.

The character of Dan White, Milk's fellow city councilman, was excellently played by Jeffery Brown. This "straight man" role (quite literally), was tempted and taunted into madness by Mr. Jones, butchly played by Luis Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez played a few other roles in the production too, and his quick changes of costume and character were one of the highlights of the show. The ensemble, while also portraying multiple characters, weren't as adept at the character changes (although Pat Bell was priceless as a Safeway shopper during one segment).

Harvey Milk's coterie of supporters was played by Kristel Wunderlin as Heather in Leather, Greg Morris as Dee in drag, and LaMichael Hendrix as John. All had good voices, with Ms. Wunderlin's in particular being strong and true. In terms of acting, only Mr. Morris really held his own with the principals. The scenes they appeared in were written strongly enough to let the words propel the action.

Geoff Uterhardt as Harvey Milk didn't impress me as much as Chris Coleman did in the 1993 production at Actor's Express, but his performance was nevertheless outstanding. His voice, while a bit thin at times, carried well and always sounded good. His New York Jewish accent was not overpowering, and added a nice flavor to the show. He seemed most comfortable in the more show-biz-y moments, which seemed to distance him a bit from the underlying character and showcase him more as a performer. But, yet again, the script is strong enough to carry the action forward no matter what.

As in the 1993 production, the penultimate "Anthem" number was the highlight for me. The stillness of the number worked with the candlelight to perfectly capture the moment of sorrow. A secondary highlight at the performance I saw was Luis Hernandez scooping up thrown Twinkies at the end of curtain call. That helped bring a smile to the audience's lips after the seriousness (but hopefulness) of the final moments.

"The Harvey Milk Show" is blessed with good writing and a terrific score. It's wonderful to see it back on the boards in Atlanta, in such capable hands as Barbara Cole Uterhardt's as director. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
I agree... by TheatreLife99
Unfortunately, I have to agree in the physical/technical aspect of the production. After seeing past musicals at Onstage such as Urinetown and The Wild Party (which had beautiful, creative designs/sets), I was looking forward to seeing a creative design for 'Harvey'- However, I was quite disappointed. Granted, the message is obviously more important than the set in this particular show- yet- I don't think enough thought was put into the set or lighting design of the show. I think there was a major step backwards in this regard for the theater. I personally would of rather wanted to see a bare stage with minimal set pieces than a number of distracting white panels. (Just my two cents from an old theater go-er).


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