“Albatross” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – March 20, 2017

ATC PRESENTS A FASCINATING AND VISUALLY EXCITING “ALBATROSS”

“ALBATROSS”
Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

A fascinating and visually exciting 90-minute play, “Albatross,” is about an 18th-century English sailor, The Mariner, cursed by a never-ending life, who is shoved into contemporary times.  The show is vibrantly alive because of Benjamin Evett’s spellbinding solo performance in the gripping Arizona Theatre Company staging that is aided brilliantly by Rick Lombardo’s inflammatory staging of Cambridge’s The Poet’s Theatre’s original production.  The unusual presentation sparks the play’s stimulating allure because of the performance and a different visual look crafted by three … Continue Reading

“Finding Neverland” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – March 16, 2017

ENGAGING “FINDING NEVERLAND” IS MAGICAL AT ASU GAMMAGE

“FINDING NEVERLAND”
Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

The engagingly fascinating musical “Finding Neverland” tells a magical story of author J. M. Barrie’s development of his fictional icon Peter Pan and the struggles that went into the creation of the other kids.  It shows how Barrie met and wooed the beguiling Sylvia Llewelyn Davies as well as the challenges presented by her sternly unbending matriarch, Mrs. Du Maurier.

When I saw the show In New York, it was a weakly produced dud at the end of an unusually long … Continue Reading

“Bullets Over Broadway” – Phoenix Theatre and “Native Son” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – March 13, 2017

WONDROUS “BULLETS OVER BROADWAY”  AND STRAY CAT’S INSIGHTFUL “NATIVE SON” ARE BOTH HITS ON LOCAL STAGES

“BULLETS OVER BROADWAY”
Phoenix Theatre, Mainstage
Phoenix, AZ

An insightful “Native Son” produced superbly by Stray Cat Theatre is about a down-and-out young Chicago Black man in the 1930s, while a wondrous Phoenix Theatre staging of the musical version of Woody Allen’s 1994 movie comedy “Bullets Over Broadway,” present two diverse productions for local theatergoers.

When Woody Allen’s classic 1994 movie comedy, “Bullets Over Broadway,” was adapted into a musical, Susan Stroman’s Broadway production bombed.  The story is about David Shayne, a 1920s playwright, … Continue Reading

“Riders of the Purple Sage” – Arizona Opera

Opera Review – March 6, 2017

WORLD PREMIERE OPERA BY LOCAL COMPOSER SHOWS PROMISE

“RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE”
Arizona Opera, Symphony Hall
Phoenix, AZ

It’s always exciting when a world premiere performing arts event occurs in Arizona.  And when the world premiere comes from a locally based composer, Craig Bohmler, the work stirs even more interest.  Add a world-famous local visual artist to create the striking sets and the audience at Friday’s night’s Arizona Opera’s performance of “Riders of the Purple Sage” was pulling for the work.  It justified the excitement.

Bohmler’s creative score and Steven Mark Kohn’s libretto are based on Zane Grey’s well-known … Continue Reading

“Sunday in the Park With George” – Theater Works

Theater Review – February 27, 2017

SUPERLATIVE “SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE” AT THEATER WORKS

“SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE”
Theater Works, Gyder Theater, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
Peoria, AZ

If one person pushed the American musical theater to abandon cutesy, romantic tales with hummable tunes, it’s Stephen Sondheim.  His diverse shows deal with real life situations peopled with complex characters surrounded by masterfully complex music.

The loveliest Sondheim show is his 1984 Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, and New York Drama Critics Award winner “Sunday in the Park With George” currently playing at Peoria’s Theater Works in a superlative production.  The show … Continue Reading

“Broke-ology” – Black Theatre Troupe

Theater Review – February 20, 2017

DISAPPOINTING STAGING AND WEAK ACTING MAR “BROKE-OLOGY”

“BROKE-OLOGY”
Black Theatre Troupe, Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center
Phoenix, AZ

After years of mediocre theater, a new home stimulated Black Theatre Troupe to improve some of its productions.  But not everything BTT does is artfully produced as is the case with “Broke-ology,” the current play.

On the surface, “Broke-ology,” defined in the show’s press release as “being broke and staying alive despite your brokenness,” sounds fascinating.  The probing 2009 Nathan Louis Jackson play debuted at Lincoln Center but Anthony Runfola’s meandering local staging never catches fire.  The ploddingly directed production drags … Continue Reading

“La Esquinita, USA” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – February 13, 2017

ATC’S “LA ESQUINITA, USA” IS TIMELY PLAY ABOUT CONTEMPORARY GHETTO LIFE

“LA ESQUINITA, USA”
Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Ruben C. Gonzalez’ “La Esquinita, USA,” produced locally by Arizona Theatre Company, is an amazingly timely play considering the pronouncements we hear daily from our commander-in-chief.  The play deals with ten distinctive ghetto characters as they grapple daily with the often unfair world they live in.  It’s powerful theater.

A single actor portrays everyone in a tour-de-force performance that demands every bit of Ruben C. Gonzalez’ marvelous creative skills as he crafts these people who feel the existence they … Continue Reading

“Matilda” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – February 9, 2017

IS LONDON MUSICAL “MATILDA” REALLY A SUCCESS?

“MATILDA”
Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

“Matilda,” a London and Broadway family musical, is based on the well-known British children’s story about the brilliant girl ignored and mistreated by her parents.  With her vivid imagination, Matilda creates her own idolized world to live in.  The show premiered at Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010 followed the next year by the still running West End production.  I saw it in London with a theater full of kids.  Most of the audience loved the show while adults without children wondered why “Matilda” was … Continue Reading

“Madama Butterfly” – Arizona Opera

Theater Review – February 6, 2017

ARIZONA OPERA STAGES AN INSPIRED “MADAMA BUTTERFLY”

“MADAMA BUTTERFLY”
Arizona Opera, Symphony Hall
Phoenix, AZ

Years ago in San Francisco, I attended my first professional opera featuring the brilliant soprano Leontyne Price in a beautiful staging of Puccini’s popular masterpiece “Madama Butterfly.”  What a wonderful opera to open a child to the genre.  When I arrived in Phoenix in 1979, my first exposure to Arizona Opera was a dreadful production of the same masterpiece in a shoddy looking and very tired staging that featured a fading opera diva.  I got the giggles early on and couldn’t stop snickering through … Continue Reading

“Baskerville – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – January 30, 2017

PHOENIX THEATRE’S SOLID “BASKERVILLE” STAGING IS A THRILLER GONE AWRY

“BASKERVILLE – SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY”
Phoenix Theatre, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

“Baskerville – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” is playwright Ken Ludwig’s 2015 murder mystery adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” but Ludwig’s play, acclaimed in earlier productions at Washington’s Arena Stage and New Jersey’s McCarter Theatre Center, is a thriller gone awry.

It isn’t Phoenix Theatre’s production that’s at fault.  It seems to be the bland, boring, and totally uninteresting plot that plods along tediously.  Primarily the fault of the playwright’s amazingly dull-witted adaptation, “Baskerville” … Continue Reading