The Most Happy Fella -Florida Review

While "The Most Happy Fella" has been called "the most operatic of classic American Musicals," Loesser cleverly interweaves down-to-earth subjects. Cleo soaks her tired feet in a basin of water while singing about how painful they are, farm hands stand on a corner singing "Watching All the Girls Go By, " Rosebella and Tony perform a hilarious duet in "Happy to Make your Acquaintance," and Herman is dazzled when he learns how to make a fist and sings a tribute to his hand. Read more

Sweet Charity

How interesting it would be to discover how many enjoy Sweet Charity as a light, fluffy, escapist musical, while still others may be struck by a culminating moral message of independence. While this is not as unique now as it might have been when the play first opened, it has a special significance today -- following the shocking election upset.. At the risk of creating a spoiler, there was something quite provocative and pertinent about Charity, standing on her own, not needing a man to provide her happiness at play's end. It is certainly a feminist affirmation. Read more

My Son the Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy

Florida Stage Plaza Theater Conceived, written and starring Brad Zimmerman Should Make Mama Proud A packed house at the Palm Beaches Theatre in Manalapan, Florida thoroughly enjoyed Brad Zimmerman's performance. What enhances his one-man show -- played with neither props nor music -- is the neat frame that embraces his stand-up comedy routine. Sprinkling clever anecdotal material, this skilled storyteller describes his downhill slide from childhood triumphs -- including athletic prowess and acting recognition -- to an adult life which failed to live up to earlier expectations. Much is original as well as bittersweet. His delivery is as skilled as his material is honest. Seeking success on the New York stage, Zimmerman spent 29 (yes, 29!) frustrating years as a waiter. He also had a TV part in “The Sopranos” and was the opening act for a number of entertainers -- George Carlin, Brad Garrett, Dennis Miller, Julio Iglesias, and Joan Rivers. However, while stardom eluded him, nothing was lost in his time as a waiter. The experience provided him with ample -- often-hilarious -- material, brought to a head in this delightfully humorous one-man show. When diners say they are in a hurry, he responds, "So go!" When they flail hands and call out, "Waiter," he points a finger in response with the word, "Customer." When not describing the restaurant, he shifts to his quintessential Jewish mother. When her friends brag of sons with million dollar homes and large cars, she attempts to match them with the words: “If all goes well, Brad is buying a bookcase.” When he asked her how she liked the name of the play, her positive response only offered one suggested change: "My Son the Waiter, A Mother's Tragedy." If ever lemons were transformed into lemonade it is here in the examination and culling of his biography. It is impossible to replicate "Zimmie's" patter, which covers not only the high or (low) lights of his life but also moves on to clever jibes about the world around him. Certainly, the nine years he worked on the script paid off. The well-honed performance spent two years off Broadway as well as touring the whole country from coast to coast. Let's hope it comes to Chicago! Highly Recommended Beverly Friend, PHD Member American Theater Critics Assn. Palm Beaches Theatre, 250 South Ocean Blvd, Manalapan, FL, http://mysonthewaiter.com 888-264-1788.Tickets $40-65), Thursday and Friday 2 and 7:30 pm, Friday 7:30 pm. Sunday 2 pm. through March 27. Run time 90 minutes without intermission. MY SON THE WAITER IS COMING TO THE NORTH SHORE CENTER FOR PERFORMING ARTS JULY 7-31! … Read more

Unlikely Heroes

By Charles Gluck Directed by Avi Hoffman At the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center Unlikely Heroes More Unlikely than Heroic Unlikely Heroes -- well acted, with clever, witty dialogue and interesting staging -- would seem easy to praise. That is, until the last five minutes. In fact, advice might well be to cut out early. You might protest that those who walk out will never learn the ending. Those who stay never learn it either. If ever a drama were unresolved and ambivalent, it is this one. The audience waits, following the complex story, with all its unravelings and revelations, and hopes that the members of the two dysfunctional families depicted either will behave nobly or -- conversely -- will give in to their worst, most narcissistic instincts. In this World Premiere of his first play, Charles Gluck never tells. It is far easier to pose a dilemma than to resolve it. That said, the story of intense family relationships -- with all its fractures and rough spots -- certainly holds the audience. Some may enjoy supplying their own conclusion. Others (this reviewer included) may be dismayed. Perhaps, the playwright should be credited for making people care so much about his characters that they exit the theater feeling disappointed. Two brothers, Leo (Michael H. Small) and David (Avi Hoffman) struggle as business partners. In fact, the very first scene sets up the tensions between them as Leo forces David to make an excuse for not taking his wife to the eye doctor in order to mind the needs of a special customer. Sibling rivalry vies with marital strife and parental angst as they all rub along together. Soon, we will see ineffective David not only put upon by his dominant older brother, but also by his strident wife Mindy (Margo Moreland) and his feckless son Bradley (Robert Johnston). Things are even worse in Leo's childless home with his embittered wife Gail (Gail Gatfnrt). When Leo places a large jug of liquid on the dining room table, nearly everyone in the senior citizen audience recognizes that he is preparing for a colonoscopy. The real, the nitty-gritty, permeates the play -- sometime with great humor, often with some pain. Add vegan, husband-hunting 50-year-old sister, Susan (Kim Ostrenko), to the mix and we're ready to learn the family catastrophe. It would be a spoiler to reveal exactly what this is. Suffice to say that in this scrutiny of human behavior there is much need for an Unlikely Hero -- a title that is far more ironic than descriptive. Somewhat recommended Beverly Friend, Ph.D. friend@oakton.edu Member American Theater Critics Assn. Playing in the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center Studio Theater (2nd Floor), 201 Plaza Real (Opposite Lord and Taylor), Boca Raton, Florida, 800-595-4849, Tickets are $35, Performances are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, through Feb 21. http://unlikelyheroesplay.com … Read more

Carnival

Stage Door Theater Music and Lyrics by Bob Merrill Book by Michael Stewart Based on the story by Paul Gallicoand screenplay by Helen Deutsch Directed by Dan Kelley Love Makes the World -- and This Musical -- Go Around Ms Caron, I would like you to meet Anjane Firestone, who is currently starring in the Stage Door production of Carnival , a role you made famous in Lili, the 1953 highly successful film which inspired the 1961 musical. You would be proud of her. Firestone's Lili shares what I would call your "luminescence." She, too, is able to project an innocence that transcends mere naivety. She is able to rise above a limited plot and add the magic that makes it believable. When she beautifully sings the key song, "Love Makes the World Go Round," she makes the whole play go around -- successfully. The story is simple. A lonely young orphaned girl appears at small European carnival seeking a family friend who can not only give her a job but also provide a home. The troupe has seen better days but is still hopeful of a comeback. After several false starts, Lili fits into a role accompanying a puppeteer -- falling in love, first with his charming creations -- Carrot Top, Horrible Harry (a walrus), Marguerite (a diva), and a sophisticated fox -- and ultimately with reclusive Paul, the man, himself (Bruno Faria). Along the way, she is romantically sidetracked by a handsome, charismatic magician, Marco the Magnificent (Michael Santora). A playboy, Marco is also involved with the stunning, statuesque Rosalie (Alexa Baray). Yes, it is predictable, but what enriches the story is the lively world of the carnival complete with jugglers, tumblers, acrobats, an aerialist, a stilt walker, and a strongman. While the usual Stage Door audience is primarily senior citizens, the first row on the day I attended, was filled with children. This play holds most appeal for them as well as for the child in most of us. Unfortunately, Act I began slowly, with some of the cast members a bit stiff. They unbent as the work unfolded and should become more comfortable over time. Act II more than compensated as the love story accelerated. If one sought a single world to sum it all up, that word would be CHARM. Recommended. Beverly Friend, Ph.D. Member American Theater Critics Assn. Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Margate, Fl 33065. www.stagedoortheatre.com 954-344-7765 .Tickets $38-42 , 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, through Feb 28. … Read more

Pompadour: Hits, Harmony and Hairspray

Stage Door Theater Created by Michael Leeds Directed by Michael Leeds and Kevin Black Hitting Just the Right Notes Confession: I never expected to enjoy the musical revue Pompadour nearly as much as I did. In fact, when I overheard a member of the audience state, "That was even better than the Jersey Boys ," I nodded in agreement. What makes this revue so exceptional? We could start with the voices, but good singers are expected. These five -- Brandon Godfrey, Preston Grover, Anthony Massarotto, Stephen Millett, and Jay Wilkinson -- provide additional versatility as talented dancers, tappers, musicians (on piano, sax, acoustic guitar and conga drums) and actors whose body language and snappy choreography consistently support their lyrics. It took over a year of auditioning to find this very special five-man ensemble. It was certainly well worth the effort. Many of these songs have stood the test of time. More important is the skill in making old words ring with additional meaning. The familiar becomes new. This is especially true in the love ballads. In spite of the fact that this is a male quintet, you can feel the presence of the invisible women they are serenading. Now that is talent! Then, there is the staging! The first floor level is painted with piano keys. Two additional stories rise from the back creating another multi-level stage built upon the base. On the top, a huge LED screen, framed by theater drapes, presents an amazing variety of backgrounds providing ever changing, mesmerizing views of kaleidoscopic colored lights and geometric designs, seascapes, silhouettes of cartoon musicians, individual pictures of famous singers which morph into collages, all in addition to the sky, sun, moon, and stars -- all enhancing the musical themes. It is amazing what can be done in a small theater, where the intimate connection makes the music came alive. One vivid moment occurs when stormy waves roll in as background to "Surfin Safari." Suddenly, a giant shark appears and opens its gaping jaws to swallow the soloist -- leading right into the opening lines of "Mack the Knife." Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear And it shows them pearly white... What a fantastic segue! The structure is also praiseworthy. Rather than creating a journey through time, Pompadour moves through different musical styles from Pop to Latin, to Country and R&B, reflecting the music of such famous ("pompadoured") stars as Sinatra, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and groups such as the Righteous Brothers, the Everly Brothers, the Temptations, the Beach Boys and many more. Everything is colorful and color-coded. No matter what the costume -- shiny suit, beachwear, and striped prison T-shirt (for Jailhouse Rock, of course), or ruffled Latin (for songs like "Babalu") -- each performer had his own color, sometimes in a small touch, sometimes as the whole outfit: red, green, purple, blue or yellow. The whole experience is as exciting to the eye as to the ear -- providing a riot of sensations. Kudos to creator and co director Michael Leeds and to co director/choreographer Kevin Black, who brought their wide experiences in costume design, choreography, production and direction to many cruise lines, corporate events, resorts and musical theater productions and tours and Broadway productions. Highly recommended. Beverly Friend, PhD Member American Theater Critics Assn. Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Margate, Fl 33065. http://stagedoortheatre.com 954-344-7765 .Tickets $38-42 ($16 for students), 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, through Jan 31.… Read more

Gypsy – Florida Review

Stage Door Theater Book by Arthur Laurents, suggested by memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim Directed by Dan Kelly Melding Melody, Lyrics and Talent in Gypsy Revival If ever an actor deserved a standing ovation, it is Ann Marie Olson in Stage Door Theater's excellent production of Gypsy . After a vivid depiction of "Mama Rose" pushing her two young daughters into stardom, she arouses audience sympathy when, near the end of the musical, she belts out "Rose's Turn" -- a stirring confession both to the audience and herself about just how much her obsessive behavior has been vicarious. What she wanted for her daughters, she had always wanted for herself, and been unable to achieve -- born too soon, trying too late. Her children, film star June Havoc and famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee will move on because or (perhaps) in spite of her. Exploitation is admitted -- and if not justified, at least made more palatable. Usually in a musical, characters are sublimated to plot. Not here. This musical tells a poignant story -- sometimes funny, sometimes quite sad -- as it explores tenuous family relationships. Olson is larger than life as the aggressive back-stage mama -- quite in the vein of her stage predecessors, which include Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, and Bernadette Peters. Olson's vivid portrayal and resounding voice bring Rose to life, a woman who will not accept defeat, and who ruthlessly rules her daughters with an iron fist -- initially as children and then well into their adult lives. Kudos also to Erica Rose Mendez as the favored younger child June, and Kelly Ziegler as neglected Louise who only reluctantly takes the spotlight when she transforms from mediocre performer into world famous stripper after her more talented sister flees their mother's dominance. Their sibling interplay hits just the right note. Lover/agent long suffering Herbie, played by Matthew Korinko, wrenches both Rose's and the audience's heartstrings when he can "take no more." Praise to young sisters Lola (9) and Zoe Rae McClure (11) playing June and Louise as children. The song and dance routine where they morph into their adult selves is adroit and skillfully choreographed. The music more than complements the plot with such memorable songs as "May We Entertain You?" "You’ll Never Get Away From Me "and" Everything’s Coming up Roses.” This play was another Stephen Sondheim lyrics triumph. Oh, they just don't make musicals like this anymore. Gypsy has been deservedly touted as one of America's best musicals and Frank Rich (of the New York Times) gave a most provocative label when he cited it as "Broadway's own brassy, unlikely answer to King Lear." Based on Gypsy Rose Lee's family expose, this no-holds-barred memoir -- so brilliantly worked into a musical -- is not to be missed. Highly recommended. Beverly Friend, PhD Member American Theater Critics Assn. Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Margate, Fl 33065. http://stagedoortheatre.com 954-344-7765 .Tickets $38-42 ($16 for students), 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, through Jan 3 … Read more