Friday, October 4, 2013

Review: PIPPIN at Florida Gulf Coast University

"Pippin," the magical Stephen Schwartz fable, launches both the FGCU season and (maybe?) its musical theatre program. Here's my review.

FGCU blazes magical, musical trail with 'Pippin'
While not perfect (no one expects it to be), "Pippin" captures the rambunctious, free-spirited delight of its rowdy '70s origins. A diverse cast, beaming with smiles and dressed in a rainbow of borrowed costumes unite in a bright, funky circus vibe. Full credit to the ensemble - from first to last - each commits to the outrageous, fun-loving and over-the-top spirit. The array of stripes, prints, glitter, flowers, feathers, sequins, greasepaint and more - all looking as if it emerged from the bottom of a moth-eaten trunk - gives "Pippin" an air of tattered, faded decadence. Occasional squeals of feedback, a bare stage and voices that aren't Martha Raye or Irene Ryan give the show a ring of authenticity. This is college theatre. This is the 1970s - and the Janis Joplin feel of the lyrics never felt so beautiful. read the full review...
Talking "Pippin" and musical theatre with Sawyer True
The Oakride Middle student, who shared the role of Gavroche in the Naples Players production of "Les Miserables" this summer, appears throughout the second act as droll, deadpan, drop-dead-funny Theo. "I'm Theo," Sawyer told me over the phone. "I'm Catherine's son. I carry around a duck. He's like my best friend." read the full preview...

PREVIEW: Talking "Pippin" and musical theatre with Sawyer True

Updated: Read the review of the FGCU production of "Pippin" here.

Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Roger O. Hirson (book) musical "Pippin" tells of a young prince on his search for the meaning of life. How appropriate then that FGCU plays host to this latest production.

One face that might be a few years away (we hope) from the beer bongs and all-nighters - and familiar to Neapolitans is 12-year-old Sawyer True.

Sawyer True as
Gavroche in the
Naples Players
production of
"Les Miserables."
The Oakride Middle student, who shared the role of Gavroche in the Naples Players production of "Les Miserables" this summer, appears throughout the second act as droll, deadpan, drop-dead-funny Theo.

"I'm Theo," Sawyer told me over the phone. "I'm Catherine's son. I carry around a duck. He's like my best friend."

In the context of "Pippin," the characters of Theo and Catherine help Pippin realize that an ordinary life might be fulfilling after all. And Theo gets some great one-liners.

Musical theatre wasn't always in the cards for True, although mom Sharon has appeared in a half-dozen Naples Players musicals, including "The Producers," "All Shook Up," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Hello Dolly!" and "Pinkalicious."

A few years ago, after being signed up for a youth theater show in Fort Myers, Sawyer tells me that his response was "Sure. I'll try it out."

"It was fun," Sawyer told me. "I like it a lot.

"Laughing Phantom" led to "Schoolhouse Rock." And to dance class, voice lessons, parts in the Naples Players KidzAct program. When I talked to Sawyer, he'd just started with the Naples Youth Chorale.

The role in Pippin appeals to True because Theo is a "more challenging" part - vocally - than he's used to. "His voice is changing," Sharon True interjects, "and it's a wider range for him."

"Pippin" also offers experience.

"I like working with new people," Sawyer True said. "I like seeing how other theaters work … everyone was very welcoming."

The youth will get that chance to see how theaters work. Once "Pippin" closes, he and FGCU faculty member Gerritt VanderMeer, the Leading Player, will head into "Whistle Down the Wind" at TheatreZone.

And he's pretty sure that he wants to pursue musical theatre as a career.

"I'd do it [musical theatre] anywhere," Sawyer told me. "Not just Broadway."

"Pippin," directed by Dominic Missimi, the founder of Northwestern University’s musical theatre program, runs October 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 at 7:30 p.m. with matinée performances on October 12 & 13 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 and available at

Naples Players set auditions for Gurney play "Black Tie" on Oct. 26

The Naples Players will hold auditions for "Black Tie," the A.R. Gurney play, at 2 p.m. Saturday, October 26. Get the complete

The Naples Players (and other regional theaters) have gone back to the Gurney well several times. The playwright is a natural fit, especially with the area's heavy seasonal population, especially from the Northeast. "Sylvia," "Crazy Mary" and "Later Life" have all played in recent years. The playwright distills the experiences of Buffalo's vanishing WASP population in touching fashion; his small, keenly felt plays often wrap big themes inside small moments. The Florida Rep production of "Indian Blood" remains one of my favorite shows ever.

"Black Tie," about one father's struggle to produce the perfect wedding toast, takes a torch to a lot old High WASP traditions like oyster stuffing and cuff links. Florida Rep produced the show in April 2012. Of the many works in the Gurney canon, "Black Tie" isn't a superb show, but it does offer an interesting culture clash. Read my review of the "Florida Rep" show here.

"Black Tie" runs Jan. 15-Feb. 8, 2014. Call (239) 263-7990 or

Alliance for the Arts releases "Fall for the Arts" performance schedule

Here's the schedule for the Lee County Alliance for the Arts "Fall for the Arts" performance schedule.

Basically, there's lots of fun stuff on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.  The event is completely free. There will be live performances, games, art & craft stations, a dunk tank and face painting.  Families will be able to explore Florida Rep’s Costume Trunk, Gulf Coast Symphony’s mini Musical Discovery Zone and the Southwest Florida Symphony’s Instrument Petting Zoo. There's also something call Trooper the Blind Raccoon.

Five Questions With: Randall Kenneth Jones, Norbert in "The Great American Trailer Park Musical"

Randall Kenneth Jones as Roger DeBris
in the Naples Players production
of "The Producers."
Randall Kenneth Jones will be familiar face to Naples audiences when he takes the stage as tollbooth collector Norbert in upcoming "The Great American Trailer Park Musical."

The Washington, D.C. transplant has appeared in shows with the Marco Players ("The Fourth Wall"), Shakespeare in Paradise ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") and both plays and musicals at the Naples Players. He had roles in "Annie," "The Producers" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." He also starred as David O. Selznick in "Gone With the Wind" send-up "Moonlight and Magnolias."

"The Great American Trailer Park Musical" visits a wrong-side-of-the-tracks community in Starke, Florida. Jones's character leaves (or does he?) his agoraphobic wife for a stripper named Pippi. Other inhabitants of the Armadillo Acres trailer park are named Linoleum and Pickles. There's a shootout. Someone sniffs Pam (the cooking spray - not the person). And THEN things get strange... (Read my review of the show from its run at the Off-Broadway Palm in April if you want a few spoilers)

Directed by Dawn Lebrecht Fornara, "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" includes Jessica Walck as Pippi, Debi Guthery as Betty, Lisa Frederico as Linoleum, Greg Jensen as Duke, Randall Jones as Norbert, Alyssa Lee as Pickles, and Laura Needle as Jeannie.

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

We caught up with Jones, but left the rest of the surprises in "Trailer Park," along with the cans of Natty Light and Hamms, in the cooler. You'll have to see the show to find out exactly who takes exactly what off at the Litter Box Show Palace.

Naples Players release cast for "Our Town"

Here's the cast for the Naples Players production of "Our Town."

"Our Town" runs Nov. 27 - Dec. 21. Tickets are $35. Call (239) 263-7990 or

Jim Corsica: Stage Manager
Brigic Wallace: Emily Webb
Michael Frank: George Gibbs
Ray Kane: Doctor Gibbs
Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan: Julia Gibbs
Sharon True: Mrs. Webb
Greg White: Mr. Webb
Thomas Richardson: Wally Webb
Larry Shoop: Simon Stimson
Sophia-Bella Carrasquillo / Diliana Gresbrink: Si Crowell 
Joe Byrne: Joe Crowell
Andrew Ciliberto: Howie Newsome
Carla Grieve: Mrs. Soames
Len Becker: Constable Warren
Jessica Daniels / Amanda Pasler: Rebecca Gibbs

Townspeople: Douglas Casement, Rhonda Davis, Scott Doucette, Cynthia Graf, Michelle Langlas, Preslie True, Denise Villarreal, Carolyn, Weinand and Mariel Weinand.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hello season.

Hi folks.

Season kicks off with a vengeance this month. I'm doing "Pippin," "Venus in Fur" and then catching a Sunday matinée of my dear friend Laurie Nienhaus' "A Teatime Travesty" on Sunday.

Next week, we get the premieres of "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," "Cats" and "Miss Witherspoon." The NEXT week, we get "Woyzeck," "All My Raisins in the Sun" and "Afterlife of the Rich and Famous."

I finally found some time to do some work on the blog.

■ Check out the new menu bar, in green (now in sexy gray!) above.

■  "for actors" has a direct link to the five-question actor survey. "for directors" goes to the director survey. We've finally started to get traction on that. Thank you to Andrea White and cast/crew members of "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" for sending those responses in. Look for those in the upcoming weeks. Please take advantage of this quick, easy way to get some publicity for your production. I can't make it any easier for you.

■ "the season" is the list of every theater and presenting house and their shows. In all but a few cases (marked with an asterisk) I plan to review the productions. If you see an error or omission, please email me.

■ If you are planning *anything* that is not already on the calendar, please be warned that I don't have a lot of free dates left. There are ten (10) four-show weeks on my calendar so far, as well as three five-show weeks. Between Jan. 1 - April 3, 2014, I plan to see 46 productions.

■ In that same vein, if you want to pitch a story idea, four days before you open is too late. Three weeks before you open is better.

■  Thanks - and break a leg everyone.

Previews: Gulfshore Playhouse opens season with "Venus in Fur"

Pedro Zepeda / Gulfshore Playhouse
Kelley Curran in the Gulfshore Playhouse
production of "Venus in Fur."
Gulfshore Playhouse launches its season with "sexy, kinky" play "Venus in Fur" tonight. The theatre kicks off its first-ever "pay-what-you-can" previews with a large group from The Contemporaries, followed Thursday night by a $20 preview and the official opening Friday.

Gulfshore also announced Monday morning that they would expand the "pay-what-you-can" previews to three additional titles in their season.

Pedro Zepeda / Gulfshore Playhouse
Kelley Curran in the Gulfshore Playhouse
production of "Venus in Fur."

Pedro Zepeda / Gulfshore Playhouse
Nick Duckart and Kelley Curran in the
Gulfshore Playhouse production of "Venus in Fur."
Here's my preview of the play, plus photos and a roundup of other coverage.

Preview: Gulfshore launches season with 'sexy, kinky' 'Venus in Fur'

Chris Silk / Naples Daily News

The play is called "Venus in Fur." The cover of at least one published edition of the work shows a woman wearing stockings and garters. Pictured from the rear, of course. Cutouts of two tiny hearts peek out from the exact spot where the gluteus maximus begins that mysterious journey into the thigh muscle, where the seams of stockings drift downward on long, lean, sensuous legs. This woman, named Vanda in the play, perches with confidence on towering heels. A whip curls in her hand, almost as if she's caressing the instrument. As the audience soon learns, Vanda knows how to use every weapon at her disposal, from whip to wit, in a battle of wills and power that may leave Neapolitan audiences breathless. Read the preview...
Pedro Zepeda / Gulfshore Playhouse
Nick Duckart and Kelley Curran in the
Gulfshore Playhouse production of "Venus in Fur."
Sexual Power Play: David Ives’ ‘Venus in Fur’ leaves most to the imagination in exploring a risqué relationship
Nancy Stetson / Florida Weekly
FORGET ABOUT “FIFTY SHADES OF Grey.” This is the real thing. The Tony-nominated play “Venus in Fur” is an intelligent look at sadomasochism, the dynamics of relationships and sexual power struggles. “There are so many layers upon layers upon layers (in this play): who’s in power, sexual politics, gender politics,” says Kristen Coury, director of the production of “Venus in Fur” that opens the new season for Gulfshore Playhouse on Friday, Oct. 4, at The Norris Center in Naples. ... “It’s the complete total opposite of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ which is all spelled out in lurid detail. In this play, it’s all evoked, it’s all innuendo … and it’s all steamy.” Read the preview...

Monday, September 30, 2013

Dates for the rest of the UK National Theatre Live (in movies) series

Because I'm dumb, I missed Helen Mirren in "The Audience." Nobody wants that.

Here's the schedule for the rest of the UK's National Theatre plays, which will be broadcast at Silverspot at Mercato.

Get complete information, a synopsis of the plays, loads of "behind-the-scenes" information and more, plus a link to buy tickets, here.

Tickets are $30 for each production, but as I've said before, that is likely cheaper than a West End ticket.
  • "Othello" plays October 13, 14, 15 & 17.
  • "MacBeth" plays Oct. 20, 21, 22, 24, 27 & 29
  • "Frankenstein," starring Benedict Cumberbatch, plays October 31, Nov. 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12 & 14.
  • "Hamlet" plays January 19, 20, 21 & 23.
  • "The Habit of Art" plays January 19, 20, 21 & 23.
  • "Coriolanus" plays February 16, 17, 20 & 21.

Gulfshore Playhouse offering additional pay-what-you-can previews

"Venus in Fur" at Gulfshore Playhouse.
Gulfshore Playhouse Monday announced that the theatre would expand its "pay-what-you-can" preview program - two days before the season even starts!

“I believe that theatre is meant for the masses," Kristen Coury said in a prepared news release. "Enjoying art of any kind connects us once again with our humanity, our creativity and the divine inside all of us."

"Venus in Fur" kicks off the Gulfshore Playhouse season with a pay-what-you-can preview Wednesday and a $20 preview Thursday. The official opening is Friday.

Yanni comes to Fort Myers on Dec. 2; tickets start at $49.50

Yanni will hit Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers for one performance only on Monday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets ($49.50, $59.50, $79.50, $99.50 and $125) go on sale at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 at the box office, by phone at (239) 481-4849 and via

The Fort Myers performance is part of a five-date Florida swing that includes shows in Sarasota (12/1), Clearwater (12/4 & 12/5) and West Palm Beach (12/11). Fans can check for the full schedule.

Florida Rep's Cacioppo to direct "It's A Wonderful Life" at Orlando Shakes

Interesting bit of news out of Orlando. Florida Rep's producing artistic director Robert Cacioppo will direct the Orlando Shakespeare Theater's production of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play."

Brad DePlanche, a frequent face at Florida Rep, who played Angel Second Class Clarence Oddbody in Fort Myers, will also appear in the Orlando production.
Inspired by Frank Capra's beloved American film, Orlando Shakes' It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play includes a five-member ensemble that brings to life a dozen familiar characters performed in the style of a 1940s live radio broadcast. Complete with commercial jingles and man-made sound effects, audiences will fall in love all over again with the selfless George Bailey and the gentle angel who saves his life on Christmas Eve. A holiday classic suitable for the entire family! It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play begins December 4 and runs through December 29, 2013 at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park. Tickets ($17-$40) may be purchased by calling the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 or online at

Florida Rep produced the show, which translates the beloved movie into a 90-minute, no-intermission play, in December 2011. The theater also added an elaborate half-hour pre-show routine, with telegram boys, roving townspeople, actors entering the set wearing furs and squealing teens seeking autographs from the "stars." There was even an sound table and a group singing vintage commercials in front of a WFRT logo.

Read a feature on the 2011 production from freelance writer Stephanie Borden and read my review of the show.

Florida Rep and Orlando Shakes have partnered before. A 2011 production of "The 39 Steps" was a co-production between the two theatres; the show played to positive reviews in both cities.

Florida Rep opens season with comedy "Social Security"

"Social Security" at Florida Rep.
Credit NOISE, Inc.
Florida Rep opens their season with comedy "Social Security," the story of two married art dealers struggling with their impossible in-laws. As director Robert Cacioppo says, "aging in-laws have never been funnier – as long as they’re not your aging in-laws!"

Here's the cast: David Breitbarth, Kate Hampton, Carrie Lund, David S. Howard, plus Mark Lainer & Ann D. Hurst.

"Social Security," by Andrew Bergman, plays Nov. 1-20 with four nearly sold-out previews on Oct. 29 at 8 p.m., Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. Regular performances are Tues. - Sat. at 8 p.m., with matinées on Wed., Sun. and selected Saturdays.

Single tickets ($45/$40 and $25 for discounted previews) are on sale through the box office, at 239-332-4488 and via Subscriptions for the 2013-2014 season offer the best seats and the biggest savings. Packages start as low as $126 for 6 plays and offer up to 43% off single ticket prices.

Australian musician Tommy Emmanuel to play Fort Myers in February

Two-time Grammy nominee Tommy Emmanuel will play Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 25, 2013. Tickets ($39.50) go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 28. Call (239) 481-4849, or at the box office.

Buy tickets online here:

Naples Players announces finalists in New Plays contest

Here's the press release on the finalists for the Naples Players’ ETC…Readers’ Theatre New Plays contest.

Finalists are:  Marc Simon, Carole Fenstermacher, Joan Hetzler and Chuck Wood. Natalie King was awarded Honorable Mention.

BIG ARTS adds Broadway star Susan Egan for "Belle of Broadway" concert in February

Susan Egan
Missed this press release the first time around. BIG ARTS added Broadway star Susan Egan for one concert in February.

Egan will perform her "Belle of Broadway" concert at 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 1, 2014.  The concert will be held at BIG ARTS Schein Performance Hall. Tickets are $47 for loge seats, $42 for general seating and $5 for students with a valid student ID or children 17 and under when accompanied by a paying adult.

Call 239-395-0900, 239-472-6862 or