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The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers

Orlando Shakes

What more could you want: sword play, romance and Brandon Roberts Style Kung Fu! The life and death decisions come from high in the power structures of the Ancien Régime. Cardinal Richelieu (Anne Hering ) makes the rules, and conflict Monsieur de Treville (Phillip Nolan) dispatches The King’s Guard to do the bloodletting. His top troops are the barley under control titular Musketeers. Technically, they don’t have muskets, just pointy swords, but that just make for more exciting stage fighting. Athos (Williams) believes his wife died, but then she gets better as he stays in Paris to fight evil. Porthos (Lizcano) does his penance after getting kicked out of seminary, and Aramis (Kmiec) just wants to marry and settle down. When the clod hopper D’Artagnan (Bonenfant) shows up, he upsets their power balance and leads us down a political rat hole with intrigue between England and France, the Queen of France (Samantha Potak) and her lover.

Plot, plot, plot EVERY where, and just as much sword fighting as you can fit on the big Stage at Shakes. It makes mob politics look simple, but it’s too hard to fight if focus on the action and not the motivation. Plenty of good actors do their part; Williams is the more thoughtful sword waver, Nolan does great slow burns, and Herring’s ring kissing fetish are all outstanding. Bonenfant bounces off the walls and exudes the confidence you need to make your living fighting. The surprise highlight is some serious physical comedy form Mr. Brandon Roberts; its late in the show but really ties a knot around this extravaganza. Kudos to Tony Simotes for his excellent fight coordination, it’s a major part of the story and wonderfully executed. This is a big blousy comedy that keeps you on the edge of your seat and ready to cheer for the good guys. French history isn’t so dull if you add enough blood and laughs!

www.orlandoshakes.org

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The Great American Trailer Park Musical

The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Theater West End

Small town life goes on every day, and at the trailer park the denizens go to their crappy jobs and drink their cheap beer and enjoy gossip just like the well-to-do. We’re up in Starke, Florida. Norbert (Ross) works the toll plaza for a job, and he wants to get his agoraphobic wife Jeannie (Jones) out of the trailer and off to the ice capades in Jacksonville. That is, until a new exotic dancer Pippi (Schoolmeester) show up at the “The Litter Box Show Palace” occasionally referred to a “A Gentlemen’s Club.” Well, it’s your basic redneck lover triangle with a snarky chorus singing us through this marital crisis. But just as it appears safe to visit the 7-11 again, Pippi’s semi-ex-boyfriend Duke (Joshua Oliveras) shows up, ready to tear apart anyone she’s “cheated” with. He’s a real terror…

These folks may be poor and down and out, but they can sure deliver the punch lines. Ross’s Norbert anchors the show, and while he’s the cause of most of the trouble, he’s also the straight man allowing who allows the women bounce off of him. Jones’s agoraphobic house frau is shocked by everything, and even though she’s outraged by Norbert’s fling, she still gets up the gumption to stick with him and even take him up on this ice capades tickets. Pippi knows how to manipulate men, but not quite to the point they stick with her. When her ex-boyfriend shows up, he steals the show. Duke is larger than larger than life, and his devotion to whippets and any other chemical he can keep down fire up his performance like injecting nitrous into a Prius. Our chorus supports and disapproves of everyone equally. There’s the snarky Linoleum (Janine Klein,) the naïve Pickles (Anna Olivia Banks) and the loud mouth Betty (Ashley Wilcox). This is a show about your neighbors or maybe even about you. And you are funnier that might imagine. Florida: love it or hate it, but you know deep down we do Florida Man better than any other state out there. This show is the biggest hoot of the year!

theaterwestend.com

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Violet

Violet

The Garden Theater

One joy of rural living is difficultly in dealing with accidents. Young Violet (Trisler) was struck by an axe head as she watched daddy chop wood. She was lucky to survive but is embarrassed by the prominent scar. Praying for a miracle, she gets on a Greyhound and heads for a big name TV faith healer (Russel Stevens) in Oklahoma. On the bus she meets some GI’s fresh out of boot camp. Flick (Mosley) and Monty (Zealand) are looking for sex and adventure, and an unescorted and not very attractive woman is an easy mark. Both test her virtue with varying results, and I’ll just say Beale Street in Memphis was a much bigger deal in 1962 than it is today. Violet meets the “miraculous” preacher, and finds he’s not just a jerk, he’s a TV Star Faith Healer sized jerk. And then there’s the bad news: her medical problem is beyond the power of TV Preaching to repair. Perhaps she should see a more secular surgeon. Now she’s really lost but reconciles with her own reality and stops off in Arkansas to join up with Flick. Maybe looks aren’t everything, if you find the right person.

It’s a small musical here, expanded out onto a large stage that often seems ready to swallow Violet whole. The set looks like the back end of a bus, complete with blinkers and filthy windows. Songs are nice but not very memorable, although they do push the story along well enough and let us into Violet’s secret chamber. Violet is small and lost, and how people react to her outweighs her own performance. The Preacher is the cleanest of all the personalities here and he’s everything you want him to be: fraudulent, slick and out for no one but himself. Mosley and Zealand are an unlikely pair as interracial friendships in the late 40’s. The Army was still segragated and this plot element feelss forced. But I liked these two vagabonds, they seemed very Shakespeare in their pursuits of carnality. Violet’s father (Sean Powell) looks lost and alone; he clearly feels guilty for the accident which ultimately is Just One of Those Things. Bloody, but just a thing. While this is a crisp and well-acted work under the direction of Ms. Kromer, I’d like to see it in a much smaller space. I think there’s a real heart in Violet’s crusade, and I want to be closers to her as she works through it.

www.gardentheatre.org

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Beehive: The 60’s Musical

Beehive: The 60’s Musical

Winter Park Playhouse

We all love the 60’s, even if we weren’t really there. The post war generation hit is high point in those halcyon days; mass media allowed relaxed morals, bright fabrics, and the idea “youth” was a product, and not just an adjective. It also allowed a new musical style parents hated but secretly danced to. Sure, there was a war, race riots and assassinations, but they aren’t allowed inside this hallowed theater so let’s get to the good stuff!

Act One focuses on the girl group sound that filled those A.M. airwaves and eventually late night informercials selling CD collections we all secretly own. Numbers are mostly lead and chorus, and open with “Let’s Rock” and end the first act with a British Invasion medley. Along the way it’s hit after hit after hit: “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To,” “Sweet Talking Guy,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” ‘Where the Boys Are,” and “Then He Kissed Me” are typical. As the show ages, more pointed songs creep in and “Abraham, Martin and John ” dampened things a bit, but we recovered our groove nicely with the entire British Invasion.

As the costumes pile up back stage, we gently reminisce over chances that may have passed us by, or mistakes we made that we will never replicate. Act Two dips in the LSD culture and anti-war material, a Janice Joplin double compete with oddly colored glasses and a mega-bandana lead us out of the decade, leaving the whole disco / punk / soul world to another evening. They say if you remember the 1960’s you weren’t really there. Well, I was. Or maybe I wasn’t. It’s all so confusing….

www.winterparkplayhouse.org

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The Rover

The Rover

Theater UCF

Pack in supplies, folks, this is a long and bumpy ride. It’s carnival time in Napes, and tonight’s the night for getting out and getting some action. A number of English adventurers are in town, looking for love in all the wrong places. Once the sun goes down so do most social restraints, and there are few taboos and fewer people ready to make sane decision. Florinda (Borges) and her sister Helena (Scaringe-Peene) are eager to go out in costume against their parent’s wishes. Florinda hope to meet up with her lover Colonel Belville (Brian Wiegand) and since Helena is destined for a nunnery she believes this is her last chance to have any real fun. The male action is led by Colonel Willmore (Escarcha-Cajipo) who seem ready to fall in love with anything that moves. He has a pack of alternately smart and stupid friends who promise every woman they meet love and money but really are all about getting some action on and then getting out of town for that refreshing Lenten Penance.

While the script is an unmanageable pile of seeming random events, the acting s solid and the set cleverly built to offer multiple locations quickly and flexibly. Escarcha-Cajipo is a likable rouge, as are all his companions. Christy Clark (playing Angelica Bianco) gives our male leads a professional alternative; She offers herself to anyone with 100,000 florins only to end up dealing with perennially broke Willmore. I give her points for trying. Both Borges and Scaringe-Peene project a well balanced mix of innocence and knowledge, and their fling a typical plot device of immediate action rather than a more considered courtship adults might consider.

The program notes and lobby videos point up a problem with this script: “It’s rather ‘rapey.’ ” I agree, but it’s an old show about a life lived 400 years ago when the dating relation weren’t quite the same as today. A similar argument can be made for most of the entertainment made 50 or even 30 years ago. I don’t condone the actions in the story, but the fact the story was written, survived, and made it to the 2020 stage should be an educational experience. Someone pointed out if you ignore the past you are doomed to repeat it. And while this show seemed to go on about as long as the Restoration itself did, it is good to dig out these relics of a past universe, set them up on stage and stare deep into our hearts as we watch them.

theatre.cah.ucf.edu

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Best of Broadway 1990-1995

Best of Broadway 1990-1995

Breakthrough Theater

It’s “Best of Broadway” time again! The Breakthrough crew does what they do best: sing show tunes. This version looks at the early 1990’s with the revival of “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Secret Garden,” “Crazy for You” and a stack of others. We open with the entire cast belting the titular “Meet Me in St. Louis” with Tianna leading the cast. The city may have faded over the years, but the music remains strong. This is one of these Broadway chestnuts they’ll be reviving in 100 years. “Miss Saigon” offers up “I’d Give My Life for you” sung by Brianna. I keep hoping Wade will do this show with drones, but he must not be ready for that level of technology yet. “Once on This Island: and “Falsettos” provide more high class melodies, and the first act closes on these blockbusters.

Act Two opens with an interesting look at The Who’s “Tommy.” The show samples six songs from “Pinball Wizard ” to “Touch Me, Feel Me” to “I Get the Music.” I suspect few of the crowd remember this landmark merger of rock and roll, opera and show tunes, but I do. The story hasn’t aged well, but the music has and I’m glad they chose this tough piece. Accompanying this old school music we also meet one of the first really big Disney musicals: “Beauty and the Beast.” Brianna and the cast lead with “Belle” and then explore “A Change in Me.” As the evening wraps up, we close with a medley of tunes from “Smokey Joes Café.” As we walk out into the brisk Orlando winter, another review of past Broadway glory retreats to our memory banks. You can’t miss with these collections or time sequenced Broadway hits; this one was as good as they get.

www.facebook.com/pages/category/Performance-Art-Theatre/Breakthrough-Theatre-of-Winter-Park-82813651818

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Men on Boats

Men on Boats

Mad Cow Theatre

The Wild West brings us thousands of stories, many of which may be true. In 1867 John Wesley Powell (Beckert) took a crew of ten other adventures and set out to run the length of the unexplored Colorado River. Washington would love to settle this area to nail its grip on these lands claimed by Indians and the Spanish crown. It sees no reason a lack of water would prohibit that. Mad Cow recreates this grand adventure, and they do devote their larger space to this ambitious project. The all-male Powell expedition is presented with an all-female cast, which is a big deal for some, and just an interesting artistic choice for others.

This is a historical event and it was not only well documented but drew enormous public attention as well. Along with the tough talking Beckert, there second in command William Dunn (Piehl,) John Colton Summer (Iris Lyn Sherman,) and “Old Shady” (Missy Barnes.) We don’t explorer the backstories of these rowers, other than they mostly came out of the war and are looking for excitement. There are four boats on this expedition, none of which are on stage. This is just as well; these boats were heavy oak row boats. Everybody gets to name a mountain or a cliff, it’s as much fame as possible for this crew. Much of the show is devoted to rowing sequences where a lookout attempts to call the side of the river that should be riding to not die on the rocks. Errors can cause disaster; and it’s not just loss of life or a pair of hands; at one particularly dramatic point both their whiskey and their tobacco is a risk. Priorities! That’s the trick.

It’s an action packed show; the ride IS rough, and there are plenty of camp scenes that allow us to explore their inner workings of these brave (or fool hardy) explorers. One great sequence has Powell half way up a cliff and unable to get down. There’s always gravity, that hash mistress of rock climbing but he gets some help from his crew. I found the show enjoyable and enlightening with a solid cast that got their job done. And the only ones who didn’t make it back to civilization where the three folks who bailed out 90% thought the run and were never seen again. Stay with the pack, that’s the way to survive.

madcowtheatre.com

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Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

The Ensemble Company at Penguin Point Productions

How bad is the mall business these days? They rent space to theater companies. Penguin Point Productions takes up residence at the still surviving Oviedo Mall, but the last two malls I know of that became theaters didn’t do well, but I hope this one hangs on. This Christopher Durang story moves the classic Chekhovian saga of a family fading away into the modern day. Sonia (LeDoux) was adopted and never married. Vanya (Wanzie) didn’t do much either, and now the pair live out their platonic lives watching the local heron come to the pond. Or not. Heron does have a life. But excitement looms; their sister Masha (Veazey) went to Hollywood and had a career with few positive mentions on the internet. Sure, she COULD do the classics on screen, but soft core paid better. After a hand full of husbands she’s taken up with muscle boy Spike (Buckalew). Spike prefers semi-nudity, and while Masha is convenient, she’s old enough to be his older sister and more of a drama queen than anyone else on stage. When a costume party goes horribly wrong, Masha and Spike split, and Masha threats to sell the house. There’s no Chekhovian gun on this stage, but most of the cast looks like that wanted one.

Nothing succeeds like excess in this comedy of modern manners. The biggest fun comes from over-the-top Masha. She hosts a celebrity-grade break down when her Snow White costume (complete with reluctant elves) fails to smash at the party down the road. Buckalew’s Spike plays an excellent comic foil to her fading reputation. You know instantly he’s a temp in her life, if for no other reason than he’s not the brightest stud muffin competing for minor Hollywood sub-stars. LeDoux gives us a calm voice of reason, and even the unusually subdued Mr. Wanzie as Vanya seems Ambien Calm until he gives us one of the longest rants in stage history.

The set is clever and compact with just enough texture to set us in Bucks County, PA but not to the point of overburdening us with realism It’s funny on multiple levels ranging from the absurdity of Masha’s failed career in cheap movies to Buckalew’s obvious mooching to the amazing prescience of young Nina (Lily E. Garnett) the house keeper and voodoo woman. It as if a Chekov comedy was re-written for modern laughs, and totally fun.

Penguin Point’s space has good sound, decent chairs, and a consume shop to die for. The only oddity is if the show runs past the mall’s bedtime, they hustle you off to the parking lot to greet the cast. There’s a convenient brewery right next door that stays up late, so you can go over and debate the subtext of the show over a fine IPA.

penguinpoint.com/penguinpoint.com

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A Lion in Winter

A Lion in Winter

Central Florida Community Arts

Old Guys always have the power, and young men are always trying to take it. Henry the Second may be an English King, but he holds vast swaths of France. He locked his wife Eleanor (Olson) in a castle and left her to chase other wars and other women. His sons have “Come of Age” and it’s time to pass the scepter, a task he distinctly does NOT want to do. He calls them in, and we meet the John (Jake Teixeira) the tough guy Richard (Chris Fahmie) and the sneaky Geoffrey (Landon St. Gordon). They must negotiate with young but wily Phillip (Cole Nesmith), and we spend the next hour in a Machiavellian game of chess that leave no one happy and most of the cast doomed.

You can read Shakespeare for the after story, this is the prequel for his history plays. I will point out this Richard becomes Richard the Lion Hearted who later achieves a world record for needing the world’s most expensive ransom later in his career. For some reason I found this production’s plot line easier to follow than the last time I saw this show, and I give this production high marks for keeping the set simple and the motivations simpler. Lowe’s Richard knows how to get attention, and he keeps changing his mind on stage to the consternation of everyone. Ms. Olson seems resigned to her fate and her husband’s infidelities, and despite her owning a good chunk of Southern France this asset does her little good. The three sons are all a joy to watch: John seem too immature to run a hot dog stand, but he stands up for himself. Geoffrey is an operator who may have inspired Machiavelli his “The Prince,” and Fahmie’s Richard looked as brutal and easily offended as a biker gang leader. He wants to kill everyone on stage and then start on the first row of the audience. Good thing I had a seat in the back. Then there’s Mr. Nesmith as the young French Monarch, he ties the story together and sets up a brilliant scene where everyone is hiding in the arrases only to reveal themselves one at a time.

The story is set around Christmas time, and it helps a bit to have some history of the era. England and France had a very fluid boarder with the English Channel just a mere inconvenience. Many English kinds spent most of their time in France am and few “French” men considered themselves French, but rather Occitan, Norman, or Picard. But the story stands up a cautionary tale of transferring control when you can do it effectively, staying to true to a straying spouse and putting county and legacy above all else.

Bravo!

cfcarts.com

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Get Happy!

Get Happy!

Winter Park Playhouse

Winter Park Playhouse broke its fifth wall tonight as Chief piano player Chris Leavy present a cabaret with music from “The Doctor Demento” show including Tom Lehrer, Homer and Jethro, and best of all “The Cockroach that Ate Cincinnati”. And you through they were just a bunch of Broadway purists. Admittedly, this set was near the end of the program, but no one got up and left, so we might be seeing a turn toward the absurd in this bastion of show tunes. As WPPH’s pianist in chief, this really was a one man show with a nearly full house. The opening set relied heavily on the Rose and Crown material Mr. Levey rousingly sings in his Day Job, but that, too was lovely, if not at all weird. We picked up some child hood anecdotes, and few stories of sitting behind the ivories and dealing with the drunks and trouble makers, and like all good entertainers, Mr. Leavy can both read music AND handle a crowd. The rest of the evening was a blur. Show tunes, anecdotes, and desires fulfilled and some still in search mode filled the time, and it was a great opportunity to see this Piano God with no script to tie him down. I can only vaguely recall a time when Mr. Levey was NOT the leader of the band, he’s as much a Winter Park Institution as Rollins and on street parking.

www.winterparkplayhouse.org