Sunday, August 30, 2015

Live Theatre Review: Sol Children's Theatre's Thumbelina

Sol Children’s Theatre presents Thumbelina, adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen tale by Wade Bradford, running from August 27 – September 6, Thursdays through Sundays at 7pm with a 2pm matinee on the weekends. Thumbelina tells the story of a childless woman whose wish to become a mother is granted by a faerie.

I absolutely loved the way director Christopher Mitchell worked around the logistical problem of difference of size between Thumbelina and the magical characters’ world and that of the humans that share the stage with them. Since there is no cinematic magic available, the characters each work half of the stage, playing up or down to each other in a clever fix.

The cast is downright adorable, and a large part of the show is just ooo-ing and aaaah-ing at these cute little actors. However, despite their tender ages, this isn’t an amateurish play. These kids know what they are doing and they are quite good at it. They have excellent rhythm and elocution that often goes amiss in productions by much older actors.

Brooke Hall is a lovely Thumbelina, showcasing her talents of song and dance. She shows great poise while playing a timid but eager character.

Her human mother, played by Denise Michelle, conquers her logistically-challenged role with equanimity. Though she scarcely gets to play off another characters, she emotes just as if she was speaking directly to her “little” co-stars.

Some of the children play dual or triple roles. Eden Wexler is a spunky little firecracker, especially as a baby mouse, and Addison Wexler charms in her matriarchal roles.

Addison is not the only actor playing against type; Austin Stein is a suave, elderly mole whose kindness to Thumbelina has suspicious origins.

Murphy Hayes is great as Uncle Jack the field mouse, the crotchety counterpart to Thumbelina’s optimist.

There is much comedy in this show – at times the audience laughter caused me to miss some of the actors’ lines. Isabella Welch has a great role as a caterpillar coming to terms with puberty which she executes hilariously. The couple of times when the actors break the invisible “fourth wall,” it enriches rather than detracts from the play.

Costume design (Ember Everett) and makeup (Christopher Lam & Elizabeth Condon) are beautiful artistic elements of this show: Zoe Alarcon’s elegantly-played black widow and Samantha Mascaro’s “chirpy” sparrow are both enhanced by these.

I am always in awe of the beautiful artwork (Kate McVay) that is created for the backdrop of Sol’s productions. Thumbelina is no exception; a verdant mural serves to create the setting, and the cobblestone path encountered along the journey is worth a closer look after the show.

In short, I highly recommend this play for all ages – the little theatre-goers have a special pint-sized front row just for them. At only approximately 60 minutes with no intermission, the play is timed perfectly with scene changes to keep younger viewers engaged and more mature audience members enchanted.

Sol Children's Theatre is located at 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, FL 33431. Tickets for future performances can be purchased here.

Sol Children's Theatre is a 501(c)(3) corporation and would benefit greatly with your tax-deductible support, all of which is invested right back into providing quality theatre entertainment for the community.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Live Theatre Review: Evening Star Production's BUG

Director Rosalie Grant makes excellent use of the intimate space at the Infinite Abyss of Wilton Manors with her production of Tracy Letts’s BUG. The stage is busy, but not distractingly so, with props that tell as much of a story about the characters and their lives as the action does. Lighting and soundtrack are also well-placed, important elements of the story.

Set in a seedy motel in Oklahoma, the play opens on a dysfunctional note that will set the tone for the entire show. The harried Agnes (Erynn Dalton), who is haunted by her past, is soon introduced through her friend RC (Rachel Finley) to someone who will change her future.

Todd Bruno is inspired as the mysterious stranger, Peter Evans, who is endearingly awkward. Peter captures the audience from the first moment he’s onstage, and his bookishness is oddly charming. Todd remains true to the character as he evolves from act to act.

The chemistry between Agnes and Goss (Dominick Daniel) is corrosive and his character is as despicable as Evans is winsome.

Though the play is dark and macabre, it is broken up by some scripted as well as more subtle, visual, humor.

Tonight is your last chance to catch the don’t–miss BUG. Evening Star Production performs its final show on Saturday, August 29 at 8pm.

May be inappropriate for young audiences because of violence, drug use, and nudity.

Get your tickets here or at the door: Infinite Abyss, 2304 N. Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors FL.

Relevant music reference:

I heard Dwight Yoakum, Brooks and Dunn, Chris Isaak, and some Johnny Cash.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Live Theatre Review: Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival's Hamlet

WARNING: This review contains spoilers regarding both Hamlet in general and this production in specific

Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival’s production of Hamlet marks the 25th anniversary of the festival. The production is a break from the traditional with the original play abridged to roughly half its running time at just over two hours. It also sets the play in modern times, which means cell phones, selfies, and firearms. Additionally, Laertes (Krys Parker), Rosenkrantz (Kelly Ainsworth), and Guildenstern (Courtney Poston) are all female characters, with the latter pair portrayed as part of the stereotypical self-obsessed youth culture to a very comical effect.

Kyle Schnack as Hamlet brings an energy to the Prince of Denmark, playing off the audience with a quick wit. He even shows off his own crest tattoo, as the actor is of Danish descent. Darryl Willis is delightful as the tedious Polonius, such that one is almost sorry that he meets his tragic end. Carly Lopez stuns with her portrayal of Ophelia’s betrayal, heartbreak, and descent into madness. She captures the heartstrings even posthumously as her sister Laertes laments her passing.

The character of Horatio, played by Seth Trucks, plays a pinnacle role in this production, a point emphasized by his costume. The majority of the residents of Elsinore are clad in white, while those outside – and perhaps, symbolically, in opposition to them – are dressed in black. Hamlet bears the funereal color as he continues to mourn his father’s death (thus visually serving as an antagonist to his uncle the king) as do the grave digger and the players who unveil the king with their play-within-a-play. Those whose loyalties are possibly divided are clad in black and white, but only Horatio and Old Hamlet’s ghost (Zach Myers) wear gray, perhaps suggesting that it is Horatio’s role to serve as the bridge between Hamlet and his father, between conflict and resolution. The play opens and closes on Horatio and what he sees and he spends much of the play as the quiet observer, sussing out the motives of all around him. He is the one to bring the news to Hamlet of his father’s ghostly unrest and the one left behind, charged to go forth and tell the story of the events as they unfolded. Horatio, dressed in gray, is chosen to be the middle ground between the black and the white.

For such an abridged version of Hamlet, director Trent Stephens has crafted an excellent theatre experience, filled with comic relief (albeit some unintentional – the line “It’s cold” generally gets a chuckle from the sweaty audience). This Hamlet is a show worthy of being watched again and again.

Hamlet runs at the Seabreeze Amphitheatre at Carlin Park in Jupiter, FL, Thursday-Sunday, July 9 – 19. Gates at 6:30, show at 8:00. This is an outdoor festival, so bring camp chairs or a blanket, your picnic, bug spray, sunscreen, emergency rain ponchos, and your well-behaved pets and young people, if so inclined. Arrive early enough and you can even have the grave digger recite you a sonnet for the reasonable price of $5 with bonus Yorick accompaniment. Also, this is a free show, but your suggested donation of $5 is the lifeblood of the program and wonderful events such as this depend on your patronage, so bring your wallet and give freely to support the arts!

Finally, as this is technically a music blog, I must note that the soundtrack to the show is dynamic and addicting (I’ll admit to having purchased all the songs I could identify) and even the before, after, and intermission music is amazing.

Lena Fayre
Emily Browning
Imagine Dragons

Friday, March 27, 2015

Union Hall Song Club: Featured Artist - Chris Michael 3/30/15

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Monday nights, head on over to the Park Slope area of Brooklyn to experience the Union Hall Song Club presented by Big City Folk. Every Monday at 9pm, an eclectic group of performers take the stage (in the downstairs music club of the quaint Union Hall) for a couple of songs each, sandwiching a “Featured act” who plays a full set.

For no cover charge, you are treated to a number of local talents sampling their wares and a full show of one artist, a new one chosen weekly.

This is not an open mic night – each of the artists performing has been screened and selected for your listening pleasure.

This Monday, March 30, 2015, a new favorite of mine, Chris Michael, will be the featured artist. Chris lives and performs in New York City, but originally hails from North Carolina and has that beautiful southern soul ingrained in his voice. He sings with a presence that far outweighs his age and his original songs range from fun and silly to thought-provoking to plain outrageous.

Since seeing him perform at The Scratcher Bar earlier this month, I have listened to little else. Watch Chris perform a heart-wrenching cover of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” from that night.

Chris is working on his debut album, but he has several recordings available (for Free!) on his Bandcamp page. Head on over there and check him out and then go to the Union Hall Song Club on this Monday to see Chris and come back every Monday for a new featured act and a handful of great artists besides!

On April 6th, Niall Connolly (who is the founder of the Union Hall Song Club and hosts the event when not touring as he currently is) features with his band (with Len Monachello, Brandon Wilde and Chris Foley).

Artists may email bigcityfolk[at] to apply to play.

Union Hall - Brooklyn
702 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11215
(718) 638-4400

Chris Michael may be found on:
Twitter: @EatThatGuitar

Niall Connolly may be found on:
CD Baby
Reverb Nation

Big City Folk may be found on:
Twitter: @BigCityFolk
Reverb Nation