Friday, September 20, 2013

Read the reviews: "Amadeus" at Lab Theater (2)

Here are reviews from Charles and I of the Lab Theater production of "Amadeus." Congrats on a strong start guys.

News Roundup: Coverage of the Jim Rideoutte retirement at Naples Players

It was a week. Season started with a boom, didn't it?

Jim Rideoutte
Jim Rideoutte, longtime executive director of the Naples Players, announced his retirement (effective Dec. 31, 2013) Monday. Naples Mayor John Sorey plans to take over.

Conflict of interest question remain, as well as whether the busy mayor will have time to do both the job Neapolitans elected him to do AND run the business arm of a major arts organization.

Here's a round-up of the coverage so far: (drop a line if I missed anything)

Commentary: What does the Jim Rideoutte retirement mean for the Naples Players?
Chris Silk (The Stage Door)
Does the mayor of Naples have time to run the business arm of the Naples Players, no matter how financially healthy it is? Sorey told the Naples Daily News in February of 2012 that he worked 125 hours a month while a council member and expected to work 200 hours a month while mayor.

John Sorey
Naples theater troupe will see changing of guard
Charles Runnells (The News-Press)
Sorey said the new position won’t conflict with his mayor’s job, which he called a part-time position. That leaves plenty of hours to run the business side of the theater. Neither Sorey nor Rideoutte would say how much the position pays, but Rideoutte described it as “peanuts” …

Editorial: Changing of the guard at The Naples Players
(Naples Daily News)
His successor with the Players, Naples Mayor John Sorey, indicates he will have the good sense to be on guard for potential conflicts of interest as the city takes up regulations dealing with downtown activities and parking. Sorey says he will be paid $60,000 a year, about half of the market rate — a precedent set by Rideoutte, which Sorey says came to a $1 million donation over the years. ($$)
Naples Players get new manager, and he's the mayor
(Naples Daily News)
Rideoutte felt he was leaving Naples Players “on a high mark” after its subsequent productions of “Les Miserables” with an adult and a teen cast last summer. “I want to go out on top,” he said. ($$)

Brent Batten: Sorey's new post evokes plays on words
(Naples Daily News)
Drawing on past and present controversies, the upcoming Naples Players schedule might include some of these soon-to-be hits. Remember when Collier County was starting its public transit service? The city of Naples wasn’t too thrilled about buses spewing diesel fumes tying up traffic on its streets. The essence of the city-county conflict will be explored in the Players’ treatment of a Tennessee Williams classic, renamed for our purposes, “A Streetcar Named Undesirable.” ($$)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Florida Rep's Bob Cacioppo appears on "Ask An Expert" Sunday morning

Florida Repertory Theatre's producing artistic director Robert Cacioppo will appear on "Ask An Expert," broadcast at 11 a.m. Sunday morning. The program broadcasts on WFWN 1240AM in Fort Myers and WNOG 1270AM in Naples.

FGCU prof Layton to teach acting classes at Naples Players

There's a lot of the usual class offerings here in the Naples Players class offerings, but one missed my attention when it first came out.

FGCU assistant professor Tyler Layton (below, with Greg Abbot Longenhagen) will teach a pair of acting classes - and I can't recommend them enough. Layton starred in the remarkable Florida Rep drama "Time Stands Still" opposite Greg Abbott last spring; she's an amazing actress - and it is a real coup that the Naples Players secured her for a series of Wednesday night classes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ghostbird preps for "Woyzeck," opening Oct. 16

Here's the press release for the next Ghostbird show, "Woyzeck."

Performances are on Wednesday - Friday, October 16-18, at 8 p.m; Saturday, October 19, at 2 p.m.; and Sunday, October 20, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call 239-333-1933, or

Complete press release below.

Latest from the "Trailer Park" - watch a video from the set!

Here's a new press release (for no discernible reason) for "The Great American Trailer Park Musical."

The show opens October 9. Very few photos of costumes or set have emerged, probably a deliberate plan to keep the sight gags a deliberate surprise. I've seen "Trailer Park" before - and the opportunity for jokes is about four double-wides high. I mean, there's a character named Linoleum.

Do they even still manufacture linoleum? My parents had linoleum - orange and green linoleum, with appliances to match! - in our first kitchen.

In other news, Debi Guthery has been unmasked as the mastermind behind the Journey to the "Great American Trailer Park Musical" Facebook page. This video is absolutely priceless. Please sit down before you view it, especially that moment at the 1:05 mark.

Anyway. "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" runs Oct. 9 - Nov. 2 at the Naples Players. Tickets are $40. Call (239) 263-7990 or

"The Great American Trailer Park Musical" runs Oct. 9 - Nov. 2 at the Naples Players.
Tickets are $40. Call (239) 263-7990 or
Complete press release below.

Reading List: What's happening in the arts

Theatre Conspiracy turns 20
Pretty good story from Nancy Stetson about Theatre Conspiracy making it to 20 years in this week's Florida Weekly. Way too many of us take Bill Taylor for granted around these parts, because my first Theatre Conspiracy show was actually "21A," back in the "that place off Evans" days.

Remember. Back in 2008, the future wasn't always so bright for Theatre Conspiracy. I still miss the eclectic seating in that space. Still.

Improv group Random Acts of ,D to play Sunday in Fort Myers

Improv group Random Acts of ,D will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, September 22 at the Kiwanis Hall in downtown Fort Myers. Admission is $10. Call (239) 218-0481 or cash/credit at the door.

The Kiwanis Hall, located at 1634 Woodford Avenue, is also home to the Laboratory Theater of Florida. Random Acts of ,D has played several successful shows at Anthony's on the Boulevard in Cape Coral; several members of the group, including Lucy Harris, Shawn Genther and James Recca, have performed in a variety of roles with Lab Theater.

Original watercolor raffle at "Teatime Travesty" to benefit elementary school play

Well, this is fun. And yet another reason that I love Laurie Nienhaus.

As part of the early October production of her original (and charming) original comedy "A Teatime Travesty," six oversized watercolors will decorate a conference room of The Holiday Inn on Estero Boulevard.

Created by local artist Babs Snyderman, the images - each six feet tall - feature 1920s women. Each painting carries a popular Jazz Age name, like Daisy, Lillian or Clara.

The works are for more than decoration. Beach Haus Productions will sell $3 raffle tickets during their shows. Six lucky winners can take home a painted lady, while proceeds from the raffle will go to Fort Myers Beach Elementary to help finance their spring production of "Aladdin."

"A Teatime Travesty" runs Oct. 5, 6, 12 & 13 at the Holiday Inn, 6890 Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach. Doors open at 1 p.m., with lunch service at 1:30 p.m. and showtime at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $30; call (239) 463-1079 or

You can read my long-ago review of "A Teatime Travesty," when it was performed at Brambles Tea Room in Naples, here:

Complete press release below.

Born to Bacharach: Eighties hit paves way for audiences to appreciate prolific composer

"Burt & Me" runs through Oct. 5 at Broadway Palm.
I've told anyone who asked - and most who didn't - that I had acres of fun at "Burt & Me." And I didn't expect to, which made the whole thing even more exciting. The second that the words to "Always Something There to Remind Me" hit, I was like, "oh boy, this might be way more fun that I thought. At the very least, it won't be "Menopause: The Musical."

John Ramsey and Kate
Marshall in "Burt & Me."
And thanks guys, it was a blast. Nancy didn't like like it (read her review in Florida Weekly), but it is nice to see her back there.

Oh. Read MY review here:

And the Amy Sowder review.

I did a little research into all the different covers of "Always Something There to Remind Me." (Read my "Music Monday" post, dedicated to like nine of them, here.) Playwright Larry McKenna also contacted me, and we exchanged a few emails; we hope to meet later this month. The wonderful Melissa Vogt at Broadway Palm also helped me get responses from the cast.

This story got shuffled a bit, fell off the budget and will run this weekend in one of the community newspapers. I can format it really well here, plus I wanted to add links and videos. Enjoy!

Born to Bacharach: Eighties hit paves way for audiences to appreciate prolific composer

"Burt & Me" playwright Larry McKenna gets a huge kick out of watching younger audiences discover the music of Burt Bacharach and song-writing partner Hal David. Even if they don't know who he is, what he wrote or anything about the man who masters both assonance and alliteration in his own name.

Take "Always Something There to Remind Me."

I was born to love her, and I'll never be free.
You'll always be a part of me.

McKenna deliberately opens the show with one of Bacharach's most popular tunes, wanting the first song the audience hears to "resonate" with all ages.

"Old people like me remember the Dionne Warwick version," he laughs. "… and younger generations know the Naked Eyes one."

Actor Taylor Murphy Hale, an ensemble member in "Burt & Me," admits to being "a pretty big fan" of the Naked Eyes cover. And he "had no idea" that the song was written by Bacharach.

But the covers don't stop with Naked Eyes. "Always Something There to Remind Me." has been covered by everyone from Ted Neeley to The Four Seasons to Jose Feliciano. The beat is almost instantly recognizable, as is the mournful refrain.

If you should find you miss the sweet and tender love we used to share.
Just go back to the places where we used to go, and I'll be there

Soul singer Lou Johnson recorded the song in 1964, reaching #49 on the US charts; Cissy Houston, future mother of Whitney, was among his backup singers. Sandie Shaw was the first to take the song to #1, reaching the top of the UK Singles Chart in the fall of that same year.

Dionne Warwick recorded the song three years later; it reached #65 in August 1968. Martha and the Vandellas included a cut on that year's "Ridin' High" album.

"It is fun to me to see the younger generation come to the realization that they actually know the music of Burt Bacharach & Hal David," McKenna said.

Well, how can I forget you, girl?
When there is always something there to remind me.
always something there to remind me.

Younger generations (anyone under 40) most likely recognize the song from British synth-pop band Naked Eyes. Their early-80s cover, recorded at Abbey Road Studios, reached the top ten in four countries, earning Rob Fisher and Pete Byrne a contract with EMI.

Cast member Rendell DeBose immediately picks the Naked Eyes cover as his favorite, exclaiming "I grew up with it!

Other Bacharach/David tunes have snuck into the modern pop culture consciousness through the movies.

McKenna points to "I Say A Little Prayer" from 1997 film "My Best Friend's Wedding" as "a perfect example." Singer Diana King's reggae cover reached #38 on the charts almost three decades after Warwick first warbled it in 1969. A second Bacharach/David song, a version of "Wishin' and Hopin'" from Ani DiFranco, also plays over the movie's opening credits

Kate Marshall, who co-stars opposite John Ramsey in "Burt & Me," likes "Walk on By," another tune sung by Dionne Warwick - and one Marshall gets to perform in the show.

"I knew [he wrote] most of them," Marshall said when asked of Bacharach's prolific writing abilities, "but there were a few surprises like like "One Less Bell to Answer" - and I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know he'd written 'Close to You.'"

Another Bacharach tune made more famous in modern times, Marshall refers to the Carpenters tune "(They Long to Be) Close to You." Originally recorded by both Richard Chamberlain and Dionne Warwick, the song was recorded, then shelved by Herb Albert before becoming the Carpenters breakout hit. "Close to You" spent four weeks atop the Billboard charts and earned the duo a Grammy.

As shadows fall, I pass a small cafe where we would dance at night.
And I can't help recalling how it how it felt to kiss and hold you tight
Well, how can I forget you, girl?
When there is always something there to remind me.
always something there to remind me.
I was born to love her, and I'll never be free.
You'll always be a part of me.

"Burt & Me" runs through Oct. 5 at Broadway Palm. Preseason ticket prices are just $45 for dinner & a show. Call (239) 278-4422 or online at

Meet the Cast: "Blame It On Beckett" at Island Theater Company

The cast of "Blame It On Beckett," from left: Jared Wagner,
Abby Yetter, John Moulton and Mai Puccio.
Here's the cast and some more info on the Island Theater Company comedy "Blame It On Beckett."

John Moulton as dramaturg, Jim Foley
Mai Puccio as famous playwright, Tina Fike
Jared Wagner as theater general manager, Mike Braschi
Abby Yetter as literary intern, Heidi Bishop

"Blame it On Beckett," sponsored by Centennial Bank, will run for nine shows at the Rose History Auditorium, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, from November 1-16.

Tickets, $20, are available at Centennial Bank, the Marco Island Historical Society Gift Shop,, 239-394-0080 and at the door. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m.; curtain for Sunday matinees is 2:30 p.m.

Complete press release below.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Commentary: What does the Jim Rideoutte retirement mean for the Naples Players?

Jim Rideoutte
John Sorey
Less than two hours after the Naples Players dropped the bombshell that Naples Mayor John Sorey would replaces longtime executive director Jim Rideoutte as the head of one of the city's oldest and strongest arts organizations, here's my reaction.

Mostly, I have questions.

- What does this mean for Sorey's continue political role with the city, in particular his vote on a city council that wrangles with questions of how to balance promoting downtown events versus residents seeking quality of life?

The Naples Players lease the land that Sugden Community Theatre, one of the most valuable plots of land along Fifth Avenue South, sits on from the city at extremely favorable terms. IRS Form 990 for 2010, the most current year available, show the plot worth $4.137M.

The impact and optics of this decision are large. I'm not sure the Naples Players looked beyond the benefits of having the mayor move from one side of the conference table to the head seat.

Any decision made in regards to marketing Fifth Avenue South or downtown as a whole will affect the Naples Players. Even a simple zoning case for Phil McCabe's new restaurant or a noise variance could bring a potential conflict of interest into play.

By some counts, Sorey should recuse himself from any potential vote on downtown events Wednesday night, as Sugden Plaza hosts events ranging from Wines around the World to political rallies to National Public Radio broadcasts - all of which bring traffic, tourists, shoppers and patrons to Fifth Avenue South. 

Sugden Community Theatre sits squarely in the middle of downtown Naples, enjoying prime access to two parking garages, restaurants and more. Any discussion of the city, be it revitalization, live entertainment permits, parking, a third parking garage, art festivals or more will now - by necessity - put a spotlight on whether the mayor is voting in the best interests of the Naples Players or the city.

This issue is not going away. 

- Whither Gulfshore Playhouse? Another, even larger question that nobody wants to ask, will be the future of Gulfshore Playhouse.

Gulfshore Playhouse currently resides (and pays rent) in the city-owned Norris Center. A proposal to expand the Norris Center collapsed in the summer of 2012. Kristen Coury wants a theater, preferably on Fifth Avenue South. Will Sorey, now the head of a competing arts organization, oppose Gulfshore's efforts to build/buy a space in the area?  Or will he recognize the synergies that a second theatre can bring to downtown?

- Does the mayor of Naples have time to run the business arm of the Naples Players, no matter how financially healthy it is? Sorey told the Naples Daily News in February of 2012 that he worked 125 hours a month while a council member and expected to work 200 hours a month while mayor.

Still, the Naples Players are in robust financial health. The IRS Form 990 for the the year 2010 shows investments of $4.69M. Every other community theater in Southwest Florida would sacrifice their artistic director to have that kind of cash in the bank.

- Does the pick make sense? And who made it?

This is the big question.

John Sorey has been involved with the Naples Players for years. So has his wife Delores. The pair have been longtime benefactors and fundraisers - and close friends and social companions of Jim and Chris Rideoutte. Delores Sorey and Chris Rideoutte even co-chaired the Naples Players 60th Anniversary Gala. The Soreys have also hosted a fundraiser for the theater at their home.

His understanding of local government and familiarity with the community, plus an affable style and politician's manner should be a major asset to the organization. Jim Rideoutte was rarely the public face of an institution that lacked one - even though it was desperately needed. Low-key Dallas Dunnagan, the artistic director, has never been the type to seek the cameras.

Still, I wish the entire process had been made much more transparent.

Theatre Conspiracy celebrates 20th anniversary season, announces subscription discounts

Theatre Conspiracy celebrates its 20th season this year. Bill Taylor - one of my favorite people - deserves a tremendous round of applause for the work he's done. One of my favorite shows - of all time - right up there with Gulfshore's "Earnest," is the TC production of "Bad Dates," the show that made me fall in love with Lauren Drexler.

Buy some tickets.

He's even made it easy for you - and there are discounts. I know ya'll love discounts. Plus he gives me 1,894 words about the season, the plays, the playwrights and all that jazz.

One of this season's can't-miss shows is going to be "The Whale," the story of a 600-pound man, which will star Mr. Bill himself. I'm also looking forward to the New Play Contest winner "All My Raisins in the Son," "Becky Shaw" and "The Beauty Queen of Leenane."

To celebrate the 20th anniversary season Theatre Conspiracy is discounting its regular season subscription price by more than 20 percent. You can get 5 shows for $72 or 4 shows for $60. Individual tickets are $20 each. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. with one Sunday matinée for each show at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling Theatre Conspiracy’s box office at 239-936-3239 or by visiting

Tell Bill I sent you! Or not.

Complete press release below.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Roll tape: Another "Fifty Shades" parody comes to Fort Myers

"Cuff Me! The Fifty Shades of Grey Unauthorized Musical Parody!" plays one night
only at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9 at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort
Myers. Tickets ($32, $39.50, $47, $56) go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 20.
Sweet mother of Cthulhu, I cannot believe this exists. Actually, yes I can. The awful steaming pile of trash of a "Fifty Shades" thing that passed for entertainment last year left an entire Barbara B. Mann Hall full of panting women screaming for more.