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“The Antipodes” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – September 9, 2018

WEIRD “THE ANTIPODES” IS NOT CONVENTIONAL THEATER ALTHOUGH STRAY CAT PRODUCTION IS STRONG

“THE ANTIPODES”
Studio Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

Like most Stray Cat Theatre productions, the troupe’s latest, “The Antipodes,” is a most unusual piece that is difficult to figure out.  Written by Annie Baker, the playwright has been responsible for past Stray Cat plays most notably “The Flick” that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama a few seasons back.

“The Antipodes” is set in a conference room where a staff under the direction of Sandy is attempting to tell stories and come up with … Continue Reading

“West Side Story” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – September 8, 2018

RARELY PRODUCED STAGE VERSION OF “WEST SIDE STORY” IS BRILLIANT AT PHOENIX THEATRE

“WEST SIDE STORY”
Mainstage Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

The Jets and the Sharks are rumbling stylishly at Phoenix Theatre as the company opens its 99th season with Leonard Bernstein’s melodic masterpiece “West Side Story.”  And while the stellar 1957 musical boasts the brilliant Bernstein score with Stephen Sondheim’s perceptively witty lyrics, the show’s raison d’etre are the magnificent Jerome Robbins (whose name is misspelled in the PT program) dances that this production recreates stunningly with just a touch here and there of creative originality.

This “West … Continue Reading

“The Humans” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – May 31, 2018

‘THE HUMANS’ BRILLIANTLY EXPLORES A COMPLICATED FAMILY’S INTRICACIES

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

Thanksgiving is a family time and the Blake’s go through an exhausting and revealing holiday that becomes a fascinating journey of twists and turns exposing positive things that the family can be proud of but also opening up huge wounds in the group’s fabric that it struggles against but cannot ignore.  The myriad of disclosures change the Blake’s inner relationships.  This rich discussion occurs in the 2017 Tony Award winning Best Play, “The Humans,” that is at ASU Gammage through Sunday, … Continue Reading

“Diary of Anne Frank” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – May 20, 2018

“THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK” SHOWS DESTRUCTIVE FORCE OF INTOLERANCE

“THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK”
Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Intolerance dooms our world today as it has throughout history.  There are many graphic examples in plays, books, and movies but one of the strongest discussions occurs in “The Diary of Anne Frank” as it describes how two Jewish families survive German evilness during World War II in Amsterdam.  The story is a downer but the gripping Arizona Theatre Company production, staged artfully by artistic director emeritus David Ira Goldstein, pulls audiences into the … Continue Reading

“Little Shop of Horrors” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – May 19, 2018

DAFFY “LITTLE SHOP” WOULD BE FUNNIER WITH BETTER LEADS

“LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS”
Mainstage Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

“Little Shop of Horrors” uses an extreme oxymoron to develop a daffy but delightful premise that transforms it into an affectionate and enjoyable musical even though it is now 35 years old.  Phoenix Theatre’s zippy new Robert Kolby Harper production isn’t perfect but it squeezes lots of entertainment from the unbelievable plot.

The show is set in Mushnik’s seedy skid row florist.  Why would anyone try to sell expensive flowers to people lucky to eat and find shelter?  Clueless Mushnik can’t … Continue Reading

“Silence! The Musical” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – May 6, 2018

MUSICAL PARODY “SILENCE!” A ZANY DELIGHT WITH CONSTANT LAUGHTER

“SILENCE!  THE MUSICAL”
Studio Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

“The Silence of the Lambs’” Doctor Hannibal Lecter is the classic evil nemesis.  A vicious murderer who targets women and hides behind his hate, Lecter perpetuates his hateful and unforgiving killings without a bit of remorse as he helps a naïve young FBI agent, Clarice Starling, bring Buffalo Bill, another psychopathic murderer, to justice.  Author Thomas Harris’s 1988 novel was the film’s source and was used by the musical’s creators, Hunter Bell who wrote the book, and Jon … Continue Reading

“Godspell” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – April 22, 2018

REVISED “GODSPELL” NEEDS FURTHER UPDATING TO REMAIN RELEVANT

“GODSPELL”
Hormel Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Back in 1971 when “Godspell” premiered off-Broadway, it was a revolutionary show with an early  pop-rock Stephen Schwartz score, a now clichéd religious picture book look at Jesus and his followers, a Bible study version of his betrayal by his disciple Judas, and an over-staged crucifixion.  About the same time as “Godspell,” Andrew Lloyd Webber chimed in with “Jesus Christ Superstar,” another view of the same thing but a show which recently had a dramatically successful rethinking on television.

Although “Godspell” was minimally revised in … Continue Reading

“Ladies In Waiting: The Judgement of Henry VIII” – Southwest Shakespeare Company

Theater Review – April 15, 2018

SSC’S “LADIES IN WAITING…” PROVIDES INSIGHT INTO KING HENRY VIII AND HIS SIX WIVES

“LADIES IN WAITING: THE JUDGEMENT OF HENRY VIII”
Southwest Shakespeare Company, Pavilion Theater, Taliesin West
Scottsdale, AZ

After years of mediocre productions helmed by artistic director Jared Sakren, weak directors, and inept acting ensembles, Southwest Shakespeare Company struggled financially as audiences shrunk and the company’s reputation fell significantly.  With a new professional artistic team from New York City, things have improved dramatically.

The event that attracted this critic’s attention was a professional Shakespearean actor who had played roles here recently and penned a look at British … Continue Reading

“Low Down Dirty Blues” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – April 9, 2018

MEANDERING “LOW DOWN DIRTY BLUES” HAS FAMILIAR SONGS BUT NO SPARKLE

“LOW DOWN DIRTY BLUES”
Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Arizona Theatre Company’s “Low Down Dirty Blues” is a tiny musical revue with lots of familiar bluesy songs made famous over the years by such soulful singers as Ma Rainey, Mae West, Pearl Bailey, and Sophie Tucker.  The show was compiled by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman.  ATC brought Myler here to stage his piece and hired an outstanding cast of singer/musicians and solo artists who perform these tunes with rampant fervor.

But the revue … Continue Reading

Vanessa Williams – Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Theater Review – April 8, 2018

BROADWAY’S VANESSA WILLIAMS SINGS WELL BUT TELLS SOME INTERESTING MUSICAL THEATER STORIES

VANESSA WILLIAMS
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Scottsdale, AZ

You got a lot of talent when you attended Vanessa Williams’ solo concert at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.  You get an experienced and sultry singer who has perfected her song interpretations.  She augments her vocal brilliance with fascinating and revealing stories about the challenges she’s had as a Black performer turning her career into a stellar achievement.

She also referenced how much she learned about song styling from the great Barbara Cook who passed away … Continue Reading