By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
If there was even the slightest doubt, South Pacific – currently at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts – proves once again, it is still one of the best musicals to reach Broadway and beyond.
With a superb cast, artfully-crafted scenery, stirring direction and retaining its operatic style, – but, most of all, with its Richard Rodgers, / Oscar Hammerstein II music and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, South Pacific shows off once more that there are few musicals which rank at the top and deserve the highest accolades possible.
It can only be described as “musical theatre at its finest.” And, this production lives up to its illustrious past.
The plot draws from James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific, combining elements of several of the stories in that book. First of all, there is an American nurse Nelly ( Jennie Sophia) stationed at a Naval base during World War II who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner (a superb operatic star Marcello Guzzo) but struggles to accept his mixed-race children.
A second romance concerns a U.S. Lieutenant (Shane Donovan ) who falls in love with a young Asian woman.( Hsin Yu Liao). The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical, most pointedly in the song, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”.
One cannot totally appreciate the sweeping history of this musical. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950 and swept the Tony awards with ten wins, including Best Musical, It is the only musical production ever to take home all four Tony awards in the acting categories. It ran for nearly five years, originally starring Mary Martin and Italian opera star Ezio Pinza.
The years have been kind to this amazing story and this road show cast proves it is up to taking on such an historic path and making the producers (and the audience) proud…
This road show production follows without a mis-cue the critically acclaimed and box office hit and that has enjoyed many successful revivals and tours, including a 1958 film (who can forget Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi?:) The 2008 Broadway revival was a strong success, winning seven Tonys including Best Musical Revival.
And, several generations still know most of the music including “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”, “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Happy Talk”, “Younger than Springtime” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy”, most of which have become popular standards. And, who can forget Bloody Mary (played here by Cathy Foy Mah) , quietly vocalizing “Bali Ha’i,” These songs are so meaningful to those who love musical theatre as this production proves!
It would be remiss if one failed to mention an audience favorite who plays the sailor Luther (Christian Marriner) who gets the spotlight in several numbers including “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame.”
Professionally directed by Bartlett Sher, this version of South Pacific seems, at times, to be re-worked as an opera, but its message of tolerance comes through beautifully with its musical numbers still as emotional as the original decadesago.
It runs through April 22 Call for tickets,-800 – .764.0700
IMPORTANT DATE CHANGE
Please see new date below, and make your reservations for this significant event.
Homestead, FL-Redland Tropical Gardens (RTG) launches three historic South Dade Events at its 10th Annual Garden Gates Gala, Homestead (Redland), FL – on Saturday, February 11th 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the private Garden of Margi and Charles Buster, 24050 SW 162nd Avenue, Homestead, FL 33031.
The highlights of the event will include a private performance by International Latin Grammy Award Winner Nestor Torres, a silent and live auction with guest auctioneer, Bob Soper, retired meteorologist, who covered the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew (Bob worked as Chief Meteorologistfor WSVN, Channel 7 for 13 years, then moved to WFOR-TV, Channel 4 where he was Chief Meteorologist until July, 2005 when he retired. Through all 26 years, Bob and his wife, Susan dedicated their free time to helping make South Florida a better place), State recognition awards to Pioneer Families of Redland, City of Homestead, and City of Florida City, Gourmet “Farm to Table” dining coordinated by Gabriel Marewski, Paradise Farms, in cooperation with Miami Culinary Institute of Miami Dade College and the Greater Miami Host Committee. Another highlight of the evening will be the announcement of the raffle winner of a one year lease of a 2012 Lexus RX 350 donated by Lexus of Kendall, Lexus of West Kendall, West Kendall Toyota and Kendall Toyota. Tickets are being sold in advance. For Gala tickets and Raffle information contact RTG’s office at 305-247-2016, or email email@example.com, or go to our website www.theredland.org.
Redland Tropical Gardens and Botanical Foundation, Inc., DBA Redland Tropical Gardens, (RTG) is a State of Florida nonprofit 501 (c) (3) corporation.
Proceeds from the Gala will benefit RTG’s Tropical Cornucopiatm which will be a permanent Tourist Destination for Greater Homestead, Florida City and Redland. The purpose of the Tropical Cornucopia is to market and showcase 100 years of Tropical Agriculture, our 100 years of environment and rural life. 2012 is the 20th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, Homestead will celebrate its centennial in 2013, and Florida City will celebrate its centennial in 2014.
This gala kicks off the three years of celebration, which includes a Green Gateway Master Plan. This plan will re-green and connect history, heritage and beauty of South Miami-Dade. RTG wants to develop this area as a sustainable eco-agro tourist destination. “As we invest in our local communities, these proceeds will directly affect this area which we call home” -Natalie Hew, Gala Chair.
Seventeen years ago, Redland Tropical Gardens was founded by Margi Buster who launched community nature-based tourism in 2003 on a statewide level, and co-produced the largest signature event of record for this area “Second Wind”, a post ten year Hurricane Andrew Celebration, hosted by its partner, The Greater Miami Host Committee that brought over 30,000 people to the area, and was promoted through international media outlets to 100 million television viewers.
The organization created Tropical Cornucopia Tours that provides purposeful and sustainable destination travel to authentic natural and cultivated areas of two National Parks, The Florida Keys, Redland, Coconut Grove and all of Southeast Florida. It markets to garden clubs, women and religious organizations, as well as international visitors from such continents as Asia, Africa, Europe, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
RTG Tropical Cornucopiatm tours help visitors discover the many secrets of this area, a wealth of natural and archaeological wonders in the most tropical in all the continental United States.
“This area has so much to offer, and it is beyond plants, flowers, and groves. We have the most sophisticated and knowledgeable growers and an ideal climate, as well as the authentic culture & heritage of indigenous people, and ancient natural history of the environment and a mosiac of tropical ecosystems in the best climate on the North American Continent. Visitors will foster appreciation, understanding, and stewardship of our natural and cultural heritage. Stroll world-class public and private gardens; explore garden landscapes, parks, farms and nurseries of the area that preserve and protect living collections of rare plant and tree species , and actually see soon to-be-extinct tropical plants. Tours are daily, weekend, luxury, and group botanical experiences (call 305-247-2016).
Our organization, working together with Miami Dade College Homestead Campus and the twin cities of Homestead and Florica City, State of Florida, Centennial Green Legacy Trust, along with public and private participants are currently working to finalize a green masterplan, referred to as the Green Gateway. On completion, this plan will close critical gaps in the green infrastructure and connect to the greenway vision of the National Park System and the Twin Cities to create a tourism destination.
In addition, as a community-based initiative we will provide residents a way out of poverty with entry-level certification programs in international sustainable hospitality and tourism, international customer service and inter-cultural communications, marine, and eco/agro tour guide interpretations and management, introduction to urban ecology and the environment, entry-level job skills, leadership training, the basics of urban forestry, and valuable training in arboriculture and landscape maintenance. Our organization wants to promote this area as “America’s Oldest Tropical Garden Community”…the Bridge between Man and Nature. -Margi Buster, President, RTG.
If you are unable to attend, but would like to be involved in this worthwhile project, you can buy Lexus raffle tickets or donate items for the silent or live auction, or become member or even a sponsor.
SECRETIVE COMPANIES DURING WAR, SYMBOLISM TEST ONE’S INTELLECT AT FLORIDA STAGE’S “CHA…”
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV MAGAZINE
WEST PALM BEACH, FL — Take a mixture of a theatre dedicated to inspiring people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds, stir in a prolific playwright who keeps winning prizes for dramatic excellence, add five stellar performances and topnotch direction and finally capture a storyline seemingly snatched from the headlines and – what have you got?
One actually can coin a new word to answer that question and describe this production: “Wow-manship” neatly fits the bill for Carter W. Lewis’ latest play – The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider — currently weaving its spell at its Florida Stage premiere.
But, be forewarned, this play – steeped in reality –is also filled with symbolism – an intellectual stretch which will keep its audience guessing as to some hidden meaning.
For simplification, let’s refer to Lewis’ latest play as CHA, but there is nothing simple about this production. We’ve been keelhauled for nearly ten years with Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, secret warriors, private companies working for the CIA, and other war destinations and names and now, Carter– whose six plays at Florida Stage has earned him the title of one of the venue’s favorite authors – brings the headlines home expertly with this dark comedy located on and near a privatized training facility on U.S. soil. It’s almost as if Carter is having a premonition about how things are going in the Afghan war and what he imagines as the “Company,” employed by the American government to help in its wars overseas.
Topnotch director Lewis Tyrrell once again utilizes his skills to fine-tune this production. That includes utilizing his unusually large set at Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse to give credibility and reality to a story. In this case, the sets are A-One for producing this contemporary tale of a couple of soldiers of fortune (Todd Allen Durkin and Eric Mendenhall) , a vaguely magical Afghani cab driver with a penchant for Led Zeppelin music (a prize-worthy performance by Antonio Amadeo ) and a young woman (Elizabeth Birkenmeier) who finds herself in a scary, panic-driven situation., armed only with a college degree in poetry. Then, of course, there is her mother (Laura Turnbull) who seems the one voice of sanity in this crazy world where war is the major subject.
These five actors skewer the stage in a highly emotional look and potential view of a war situation which most of us only know from the front page headlines of the daily press or snippets from television or Internet news viewing. Above all, there is the premise that a private Company ( Could it be Halliburton?) has the greatest influence and valid reasons to have the U.S. in Afghanistan and that it even could kill one of its own to safeguard its secretive value.
Although this cast deserves much of the applause as the play winds down, it would be remiss not to laud the clarity and dark humor of author Lewis. His keen awareness of contemporary events(including his anti-war anger) lends itself to the reality of this play. That he has uncanny skill with words is already known here , especially after last year’s successful run of The Storytelling Ability of a Boy, which also had its world premiere at Florida Stage. But CHA is a far more contemporary and realistic play – a powerful exposure of a private security firm and what it can do in a war and its effect on individuals. As in The Storytelling, author Lewis uses a stirring, lengthy monologue (delivered by Birkenmeier) to make his point. This may make some audience members squirm, but it makes his anti-war point right on target.
It is for the most part a symbolically –filled script asking us what is more powerful in achieving a more humane life — violence or peaceful measures.
Long after you leave the theatre will you be talking about Antonio Amadeo as the music-loving Afghani cab driver. The Carbonell award-winning actor perfectly captures this character’s personality and spirit, adding humor to a dramatic event. It is a milestone portrayal of an American Muslim who has been in the States for 22 years, but is still considered a stranger (or worse yet, a terrorist).
Ditto for two other award-winning actors – Laura Turnbull (one of Florida’s most beloved performers ) as the widow of a slain Company man, and Todd Allen Durkin as one of the mercenaries. (“privileged thugs”). Durkin – fresh off a noteworthy performance at Mosaic in The Irish Curse – once again shines in a role demanding a streak of violence and bravado. Relative newcomers Mendenhall and Birkenmeier (the protagonist who believes her poetry and love of life can make the world a better place) apparently benefited from being part of this star ensemble. Both give excellent performances.
CHA is a powerful production which does not preach but certainly sends a message about morals and the tug of war. If you can intellectually understand symbolism and the imagery of how war is waged by mercenaries who somehow or other are in greater command and numbers than our troops, CHA will measure up to its advance hype.
Credit Victor A. Becker for outstanding scenic design, Erin Amico for the costumes, sound by Matt Kelly and especially Suzanne M. Jones for effective lighting. All of this technical support helps bring the military facility to life at the West Palm Beach theatrical venue.
Please note these curtain times: CHA runs through June 5. Performances run Wednesday through Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 1:30 p.m.
Call (561) 832-SHOW (7469). For individual tickets. For group tickets, call (561) 515-6400.
PLAYWRIGHT MARTIN MCDONAGH SHINES ALONG WITH FINE CAST, ABLE DIRECTION AND TECH EXCELLELNCE AT PALM BEACH DRAMAWORKS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News/ ENV Magazine
WEST PALM BEACH, FL — Author Martin McDonagh — despite his relative youth (he is 41), considered one of the most important living Irish playwrights — already has an abundance of fans in South Florida where it seems at least one of his dark comedy productions pops up on the schedule of one of the area’s theatres almost annually. There have been outstanding productions of the Lieutenant of Inishmore, the Pillowman, A Beheading in Spokane in recent memory –but produced primarily in Miami-Dade at GableStage.
Now, McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane – a melodrama which launched his career in 1996 – is given the royal treatment at Palm Beach Dramaworks here. It has not lost any of its dim, damp and dungy feel in this outstanding production, directed by William Hayes. In fact, this production proves to be one of the best two hours one can ever experience in a South Florida theatre. It is a showcase for fine acting, astute direction, technical excellence and, above all, a vehicle for fine writing. It once again proves why PB Dramaworks under Producing Artistic Director Haye’s leadership excels in providing thoughtful drama and superb performances in a splendorous manner.
McDonagh was actually born in London, to Irish parents. However, most – but not all – of his plays have ben set in County Galway, where he spent his holidays as a child. The first of his trilogies – including this show – which received a Tony Best Play nomination — is set in Leenane, a small village on the west coast of Ireland,. The others in this trilogy include A Skull in Connemara (1997) and The Lonesome West (1997). His second trilogy consists of The Cripple of Inishmaan (1997), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001) and The Banshees of Inisheer (which — according to online sources — was never published, as McDonagh insisted it “isn’t any good.” Since then, McDonagh has focused on his first passion, film, including , In Bruges (2008), for which he received several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. But, it is The Beauty Queen of Leenane, written at the start of his career, that first swept McDonagh into the limelight of modern day drama. Ever since, it has been a career filled with praise, awards and the international spotlight. Talent obviously pays off!
The Beauty Queen of Leenane is basically the unsettling tale of the dysfunctional and volatile relationship between a 40 year old spinster Maureen (Kati Brazda ) facing her last chance at love, and her domineering, lying 70 year old mother Mag Folan (once again, a triumph for multi-Carbonell winner Barbara Bradshaw). They live together in a rural cottage which echoes the claustrophobia of their lives. The situation changes when a neighbor Ray (Blake DeLong) brings his older brother Pato (Kevin Kelly) onto the scene. Pato – an eligible bachelor — is a construction worker just back from a job in London. When the mother does everything possible to be sure no romance occurs, it leads to unexpected tragedy. Sounds like a simple enough plot, but – with McDonagh’s biting words –unexpected tenderness turns into manipulation and this toxic relationship ultimately leads to tragedy.
It is easy to praise the two female actors – Bradshaw and Brazda. Author McDonagh has written two juicy roles and these two veterans play the nagging mom and combative daughter to perfection. But, the script also gives the two young men in this production – Blake DeLong as the fidgety neighbor and Kevin Kelly as his shy but love-seeking brother — a chance to dominate the stage. When DeLong withers around the stage muttering sighs and unintelligible sputterings or when Kelly reads the love letter he has written to Maureen, these poor souls capture everyone’s imagination.
The set by Michael Amico, with its simple furniture, rocking chair and sooty walls is home to this mother-daughter but also a “prison” for the younger woman. One can almost smell the decay of this country cottage. Credit also goes to costumer Brian O’Keefe, Scott Wagmeister for lighting and Matt Corey for his sound direction. Technically – and we sometimes forget their importance to the overall show – this production is also right on target.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane runs through June 19. It is the concluding play at the Company’s 322 Banyan Blvd. theatre. Palm Beach Dramaworks moves to a new, larger location at the former Cuillo Centre at 201 Clematis Street on November 11, 2011. Get your tickets soon for the grand opening — 11-11-11. The 12th season of PB Dramaworks actually begins with Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. In the meantime, don’t miss The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Call (561( 514-4042. or go to www.palmbeachdramaworks.org for tickets.
At Women’s Theatre Project
DRINKING SCOTCH FOR BREAKFAST UNVEILS A HOST OF SECRETS IN THIS PLAY ABOUT WOMEN
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL — If there ever was a doubt that an individual should hold one’s tongue after having scotch for breakfast, this is it!
All sorts of secrets — mostly sexual in content — and other tidbits among twenty-something women are unveiled, thanks to too much liquor and smoking pot, at the wrong time of day, under difficult circumstances, unleashed by three of four roommates who try to shock one another by the items they unveil about themselves and each other.
And, that doesn’t even include an Act 2 knife attack or a black eye!
If that sounds like a gossiping situation among “roomies,” that’s a good a description of Theresa Rebeck’s Sunday on the Rocks, currently doing its soap opera best at the Women’s Theatre Project in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Drinking one’s breakfast allows Elly (a dynamo named Jacquieline Laggy ) to reveal to her housemates Jen (a sensational Pilar Uribe) and Gayle (the always reliable Lela Elam ) that she is expecting a baby, and is asking their reassurance if she decides to get an abortion. Her pregnancy and its ramifications, it seems, is just the tip of the iceberg. Once her secret is revealed, all hell breaks loose verbally as each of the girls uses this moment to do a tell-all about her own experiences, as well as what they think about the fourth roommate, a holier-than-thou, controlling zealot.(Dyani Battcheller).
This play is billed as a comedy, but it doesn’t take long into this production to realize the drama of their lives is being exposed – truths and resentments. There may be laughable moments, but the subject of their emotions is pure drama. Discussions on sexual harassment in the office seem all too real. Did I read this in a newspaper? Did I see it on TV? Did some girl mention this as the usual annoyance in her day job? On, the other hand, does the character who admits she loves seeking sexual encounters seem real? It may be theatre, but is it that far from reality?
Director Genie Croft moves Sunday on the Rocks along at a rapid clip, thanks to the capable actresses who are the major players in this ensemble — Pilar Uribe, Lela Elam and Jacqueline Laggy. They make the Sunday brunch with alcohol a highly unusual experience which turns their intelligent conversation into a discourse of what “togetherness” means. And, who gets the brunt of their exchange? It’s the born-again character, played by Dyani Battcheller, who has to do a toned-down performance to balance the three roommate firebrands.
One thing for sure – it turns this tiny stage into large drama! When these characters talk about getting “on with our lives” or philosophizing that “compromising is a luxury you cannot afford” or even doing a sing-dance-along to “I Will Survive,” they are – in their own way – telling you a lot about themselves.
Three of the women you meet in Act 1 will get under your skin, early as they spout their secrets. It is one terrific ensemble, even the though the initial trio gets the best lines and the most dynamite explosion of emotions. The words are the keys to this play’s success, even when the author insists on knife-play to further the drama. This may seem somewhat contrived – even out of character – but the four women’s explosive personalities more than make up for any criticism. It can only be described as notable acting. These girls seem much too bright and family-conscious to bring in violence with a knife. But, the author obviously wants to make a point (and she does!!!)
Those who are accustomed to seeing bare sets at WTP will be pleasantly surprised This sprawling set by Juan Carlos Casaverde is picture perfect in depicting the shared Boston living room and porch — home to the four women.
Women’s Theatre Project is located at Sixth Star Studios, 505 N.W. 1 Avenue, Fort Lauderdale. This show runs through May 15. Call 866-811-4111 for tickets by phone or purchase online at womenstheatreproject.com.