Friday, March 30, 2007


Enjoyable ‘ELLA,’ but without Ella

One of the problems in doing a show like ‘ELLA,’ which is now on stage at the Cleveland Play House, is that anyone who knows what Ella Fitzgerald looked like, sounded like, and acted like, expects the actor portraying the living legend to be that person.

Hal Holbrook is Mark Twain in his portrayal of the great writer in ‘MARK TWAIN TONIGHT.’ Several years ago, Wayne Turney appeared as Harry Truman in ‘GIVE ‘EM HELL HARRY,’ at Actors’ Summit. He didn’t just portray Truman, he was Truman.

Unfortunately, as good a singer and actress as Tina Fabrique is, she does not personify Ella Fitzgerald. She doesn’t look like, have the mannerisms or the voice of “The First Lady of Song.” That’s not to say she is bad, she is excellent. She just isn’t Ella.

Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. What made Ella great was the wide-range of her voice, her accurate ability to give meanings to the words she sang, and her amazing ability to scat (sing meanings using sounds rather than words). Her voice was a musical instrument.

Born in 1917, she was early orphaned. She made her first foray into entertainment in 1934 when she won an amateur night contest at New York’s Apollo Theatre. Because of her unattractive looks she was denied the promised follow-up paid performances, but through sheer determination and a keen manager she rose to fame. By the 1990s, Ella had recorded over 200 albums and by 1991 when she gave her final performance there, she had performed 26 times at the famed Carnegie Hall.

Fitzgerald’s personal life was not happy. Her marriages didn’t last. Her relationship with her son (actually a child conceived by her sister and brother-in-law who she adopted) was filled with angst. Poor health plagued her through much of her career. She experienced heart problems and as a result of diabetes was forced to have both of her legs amputated below the knees. She died on June 15, 1996.

‘ELLA,’ with book by Jeffrey Hatcher and conception by Rob Ruggiero and Dyke Garrison, chronologically follows part of the life of this great singer. It contains many of Ella’s hits including, “How High the Moon,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Pagannini),” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “Our Love is Here to Stay,” ”That Old Black Magic” and her signature piece, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”

Though at times the dialogue gets a little sappy, it bridges the songs together and generally tells Ella’s story.

Ms. Fabrique is a fine singer in her own right. She grabs and holds an audience. Her acting is also excellent. She is ably assisted by George Roth, as Fitzgerald’s manager, Norman Granz. The orchestra is fantastic. Brian Sledge is wonderful on the trumpet and George Caldwell (piano/conductor), Rodney Harper (drums) and Clifton Kellem (bass) are all fine musicians.

Capsule judgement: If you go to see ‘ELLA’ expecting to see and hear a personification of Ella Fitzgerald you’ll be disappointed. Instead, go to hear Tina Fabrique sing Ella’s songs and give yourself a taste of the life of the queen of scat. With that mindset, you’ll enjoy yourself!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Shaw Festival preview-2007


Every trip to the Shaw Festival, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, convinces me more and more that it is the premiere repertory theatre venue in North America. The plays are generally excellent, the acting company superb, the show variety provides something for everyone, and the settings and costumes are creatively and lavishly conceived.

The Shaw Festival is conducted in three theatres. This season starts on April 4 and runs through October 28, Tuesday through Sunday. Each day has matinee, evening and even some lunch time productions. For real theatre buffs that means a three night/four-day stay can result in experiencing seven shows. The festival is an easy four-hour trip from Cleveland on roads which pass through the wine countries of Ohio, New York and Canada. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a lovely city brimming with flowers, classical architecture and inviting shops. This is like going to theatre heaven.

Jackie Maxwell, Shaw’s Artistic Director, each year chooses a focus for the plays. This season it is matters of the heart , carried out with a blend of comedies, musicals and dramas.

This season’s plays include Bernard Shaw’s drama ‘SAINT JOAN;’ Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman’s musical ‘MACK AND MABEL;’ Georges Feydeau’s farce ‘HOTEL PECCADILLO;’ Somerset Maugham’s drama ‘THE CIRCLE;’ ‘THE PHILANDERER,’ a Shaw comedy; Tennessee Williams’ drama, ‘SUMMER AND SMOKE;’ Brian Friel’s humorous drama ‘A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY;’ the comedy ‘THE CASSILIS ENGAGEMENT’ by St. John Hankin;’ ‘TRISTAN,’ a musical with book, music and lyrics by Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey; and Lady Augusta Gregory’s ‘THE KILTARTAN COMEDIES,’ a duet of Irish plays.

Besides the plays, the Festival includes a reading series, Sunday coffee concerts, a Village Fair and Fete, seminars, backstage tours, pre-show chats, Tuesday Questions and Answers and Saturday Conversations.

For theatre information, a brochure, lodging suggestions or tickets call 800-511-7429 or go on-line to Ask about packages that include lodging, meals and tickets. Also be aware that the festival offers Sunday night specials, day-of-the-show rush tickets and senior matinee prices.

For recommendations on bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants and other events, go to and click on one of the Shaw listings.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Review of the reviewer (Bill Wade, Inlet Dance)

Thank you so much for your kind words! I was very proud of the dancers last night and hope they continue to improve with each performance this weekend. I'm going to FWD your review on to the dancers and my Board of Trustees; they will, no doubt, be encouraged and affirmed.

Thanks again for all you do.

Bill Wade
Artistic Director/Founder
Inlet Dance Theatre

Inlet Dance 3/07

Inlet wows audience at DanceWorks 07

Bill Wade, the Artistic Director of Inlet Dance Theatre, which is performing as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks 07, is first and foremost a teacher. His long list of educational assignments centers on “impacting the lives of young people through educational programs.” He works with public school kids, often from school districts with limited financial means. This philosophy carries over into his dance company is composed of only four members. There also are three apprentices and eight trainees. Again, a stress on education.

Don’t get the idea that there is a lack of professionalism. The screaming, standing ovation that the company received in their Danceworks opening night performances, and the continued notes in my program which say, “wow,” “creative,” and “dynamic,” attest to the excitement and excellence of the program.

The evening opened with ‘SNOW,’ danced to the flowing and powerful music of Ryan Lott, the wunderkindt of local composers who creates for both Inlet and Groundworks Dancetheatre. As is the signature of Wade’s choreography, a strong gymnastic tone underlies the dancer’s movements. Beautifully costumed in unitards painted with nature scenes by Kristin Wade, the piece featured six dancers transforming their bodies into a series of snowflakes. Displaying strength, the flowing and powerful piece effectively paralleled movements to the music.

‘WINGED OPPOSITION’ was choreographed to surreal music and featured effective mechanical movements which were repeated over and over. Somewhat overlong, the format gave the illusion of choppiness, with the parts not always blending together.

‘A CLOSE SHAVE’ was totally delightful. Danced with muscular power by apprentice Joshua Brown and trainee Justin Stentz, Wade’s sense of humor flowed forth. It examines the concept of “a close call” which spanned the interaction between the dancers from mirroring each other as they shaved, to putting themselves into various risk areas intended to “clean up one’s image.” Brown and Wade were nothing short of amazing. The piece ended to screaming applause.

Stentz, who is exciting to watch on stage, and has to be ranked with the best male dancers in the area, used his gym-ripped muscular body to work with the equally proficient and powerful Leila Pelhan in ‘imPAIRed’ to create visual body intertwinings that were fascinating to watch. The dance is performed with both dancers blindfolded. It is the result of the company conducting residencies for visually impaired and blind students at the Cleveland Sight Center. It highlights sensitivity, caring and trust. This was a “WOW!’ experience.

‘IN, NOT OF,’ a company premiere, danced to another Lott piece, featured the company as well as the apprentices and trainees. The choreography is the result of Wade’s visit, as part of his participation in an international artist exchange program, to Easter Island. He used the island’s culture, images and philosophies to create a narrative work. The disciplined, flowing cast members used the company’s signature gymnastic movements to create an appealing piece.

Capsule judgement: Bill Wade is a fine choreographer who proficiently teaches his dancers his gymnastic and creative style of movements. The overall effect was a very enjoyable evening of dance.

Photo by Jim Ruthrauff (

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


‘LEGENDS’: legends trying to play legends

The late James Kirkwood, author of ‘LEGENDS,’ which is now on stage at the Palace Theatre, is a former resident of Elyria. In fact, the moorish house in which his mother, movie star Lila Lee lived on Washington Avenue, was supposedly the setting for his book ‘THERE MUST BE A PONY.’ He is also the co-author of the much awarded ‘CHORUS LINE.’ But, it’s not the Kirkwood name that is bringing in patrons to the Palace Theatre, it’s the monikers of Joan Collins and Linda Evans.

Joan Collins and Linda Evans are best known as the duo who starred as rivals in ‘DYNASTY,’ the 1980’s late evening soap opera. In the play, as in the TV show, they play characters who hate each other.

This is not ‘LEGENDS’ first showing in Cleveland. In the late 1980s a production starring Carol Channing and Mary Martin appeared here. The show had negative reviews for both the script and the performances and closed before the run of the tour was completed. Part of the reason for the closing was real-life conflicts between Channing and Martin. The friction is recounted in Kirkwood’s book ‘DIARY OF A MAD PLAYWRIGHT.’

As with the previous version, the producers intend to bring the show to Broadway after it finishes its tour.

‘LEGENDS’ centers on two desperate movie stars who are courted by an unscrupulous young producer to star in a Broadway show. He convinces them to be in the play because it would star Paul Newman. He also knows that both are financially destitute. Collins is Sylvia Glenn, the acerbic star originally played by Channing. Evans takes on Martin's part, the seemingly sweet Leatrice Monsee.

The script is not great. Parts of it are funny, but, in the main, the ideas are forced and predictable. Of the two stars, Collins is the more capable. She keys most of her laugh lines and seems to be having a great time. On the other hand, Evans is emotionally flat. She appears uncomfortable on stage. Her soft voice and underplayed personality worked on television, but the stage requires more. She’s like a wind-up Barbee doll with a mechanical voice.

The high points of the production center on three of the supporting characters. Tonye Patano is hilarious as Aretha, the caustic maid.

Joe Farrell is extremely funny as Martin, the producer. The scene, which follows his eating some hashish-laced brownies, is one of the funniest that you will ever see. There was spontaneous and prolonged applause following this segment.

Will Holman as Boom-Boom, a stripper hired to entertain at a bachelorette party, who errantly shows up during the negotiation between Sylvia and Leatrice, is dynamic. A scene in which he makes his well-developed exposed pecs dance brought extended laughter . At one point he wears only a small red heart on each buttock and a high hat covering his privates. The audience loved it.

Capsule judgment: Don’t go to see ‘LEGENDS’ expecting a well written and performed play. But don’t let that stop you. You will laugh, you will probably enjoy yourself, and that’s what many theatre-goers want. The chances of this production making it on Broadway? Nil!!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rose Tattoo (Ensemble Theatre)

Rose fades at Ensemble!

Many theatres like to stretch themselves by selecting plays that challenge their directors, casts and audiences. Unfortunately, in some cases, the choices are unwise as the venue just isn’t up to the task. This is definitely the case with Ensemble and their present production, ‘THE ROSE TATTOO.’

The Tennessee Williams’ play which, as with many of his epics, is set in the South, opened in New York in 1951 to generally favorable reviews.

The plot, which spans a period of three years, tells the story of an Italian American widow in Louisiana who has allowed herself to withdraw from the world after her husband's death.

The script, not considered to be the quality of Williams’ ‘STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’ or ‘GLASS MENAGERIE,’ continues his theme of women who find themselves in societies that they don’t understand and which don’t understand them. The writing follows the Greek concept of virility, as exemplified by the God Dionysus, who is also the god of worship. Both of these themes are significant threads in the story line.

This is a difficult script to stage. It requires a high level of acting skill and directing knowledge to make it meaningful and truthful.

Ensemble’s production, under the direction of Licia Colombi fails on all levels. The concept is weak, the stage movements chaotic, the acting shallow, the accents inconsistent, the costumes poor (how difficult is it to find a real sailor suit and shoes?), the set poorly conceived, and many of the props unrealistic.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Ensemble has to realize its limits. ‘THE ROSE TATTOO’ is a script well beyond their directing, performance and technical abilities.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

HAY FEVER (Great Lakes Theater Festival)

Delightful ‘HAY FEVER’ at Great Lakes Theater Festival

Charles Fee, producing artistic director of the Great Lakes Theater Festival, loves farce, he relishes double-takes, over exaggeration and bigger than life situations. Noel Coward’s ‘HAY FEVER, now on stage at GLTF, was seemingly written for Fee to direct! It’s a script with no end of hysterics, directed by a man who breathes life into every possible hysterical moment.

‘HAY FEVER’ has been described as a comedy of bad manners. And that’s exactly what it is. The Blisses, who live in the English country side, give new meaning to the words, “dysfunctional family,” and all who come within their wild world get swept into the catacomb of zaniness. This group lives a life that is anything but bliss.

Noel Coward’s plays epitomize the sophisticated wit of the era between the two world wars. ‘HAY FEVER’ epitomizes the witty style and forked tongue of the English master of farce. Its 1925 opening was met with raves and established Coward as a major playwright. A 2006 revival of the show in London starred recent Academy Award nominee Dame Judith Dench and was met with similar raves.

The Bliss contingency consist of Judith Bliss, a recently retired stage actress obsessed about her age, her looks, and desire to be continuously indulged. Her husband David is a self-observed best selling author of bad books. Their adult children, Sorel and Simon, having been brought up in chaos, lack any sense of reality. Being overly dramatic is the norm. Into this eccentricity come a group of house guests. Unfortunately, as is the case with most of their lives, none of the Blisses know that each has invited a weekend visitor. The results are comedic chaos.

Coward once stated that the play has ‘‘no plot at all and remarkably little action. Its general effectiveness therefore depends on expert technique from each and every member of the cast [and the director’s creativity].’’ Fortunately for GLTF, their director and cast are up to the task. In the hands of a lesser company, ‘HAY FEVER’ could be a torturous experience. This is definitely not the case at GLTF.

Fee masterminds the fun. The pace is fast, the characters clearly etched, the laugh lines are all keyed, and the overall effect is wonderful.

Kathleen Pirkl Tague is correctly over-the-top as Judith. She creates THE drama queen of drama queens. This is one show in which over acting is needed, and Tague can over act! She is rivaled by Sara Bruner as Sorel. Bruner creates a character whose lack of reality is so normal and natural that it makes her believable. Jeffrey C. Hawkins flits around the stage like Tinker Bell. Hawkins so overdoes the roll that he makes us easily believe that his lack of reality is a norm. Aled Davies’s David perfectly characterizes the emotionally absent father who has disdain for the family and everyone else. The rest of the cast, Laura Perrotta, David Anthony Smith, Laura Welsh, Lynn Robert Berg and Elizabeth Ann Townsend are all wonderful.

Gage Williams’ set, Nicole Frachiseur’s costumes and Peter John Still’s sounds, all add to the goings-on.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘HAY FEVER’ is a laugh riot. This production is a must see for anyone who loves to have a good time in the theatre and care not about the worries of the world.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Song and Dance (Beck Center)

BECK’s ‘SONG AND DANCE’ a solid winner in spite of the concept

Sometimes a theatre-goer sees a production and realizes that the end is better than the means. This is the case with ‘SONG AND DANCE,’ now on stage at the Beck Center. Beck’s production, co-directed by the theatre’s artistic director Scott Spence and Verb Ballets’ artistic director Hernando Cortez is an audience pleaser in spite of the problems created by the format of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s script.

The song part of ‘SONG AND DANCE’ (Act 1) tells the tale of a young English woman (Emma) who arrives in New York, ready to find love and happiness in the Big Apple. But through a string of unsuccessful relationships, she finds something more important: self-awareness. The second act (Dance) concerns one of her lovers (Joe) and his attempt to find himself, his awareness of his love for Emma, and her ultimate rejection. Well, that’s kind of what the second act is about.

The reason for the disparity between the acts centers on the very way in which the show was conceived. The final product is a combination of two Webber pieces. The first, his ‘VARIATIONS ON PAGANINI'S CAPRICE IN A MINOR,’ which was developed in 1978 and the second, ‘TELL ME ON A SUNDAY,’ a song cycle written in 1980, which is based on “A Minor Caprice No. 24 by Paganini.” The latter was conceived by Webber for his cellist brother Julian, and was not intended to be a theatrical presentation. When listening to the second act, if the music sounds familiar, it is if you’ve seen ‘CATS.’ The score was also incorporated into that Webber musical.

Variations and ‘TELL ME ON A Sunday’ were wed when producer Cameron Mackintosh proposed they be combined under the umbrella title, ‘SONG AND DANCE,’ thus explaining the different acts of the show. The results may well confuse the audience which is probably looking for some clear hook between the two acts, which is hinted at, but isn’t really there.

The show, which originally premiered in London, was greatly altered before it opened on Broadway in 1985. The ending was changed from a situation in which the separated lovers realize their errors and reunite (London) to: he wants to reunite, but she realizes that she was looking for love in all the wrong places (Broadway), so they go their separate ways. In spite of very mixed Big Apple reviews, the show ran 474 performances. Many feel that the only reason the production lasted as long as it did was the star power of Bernadette Peters, who gained the Tony Best Actress award for the role.

The first act is a solo piece. Except for the scene changers and a non-speaking cameo by one of Emma’s lovers, the actress sings eighteen songs, including the beautiful “Tell Me On a Sunday,” and “Unexpected Song.” And the compelling, “Come Back With the Same Look in Your Eyes.”

Tracee Patterson is wonderful as Emma. Though her voice is a little shallow in the upper registers, she is such a strong actress that all is forgiven as she sings meanings not words to make each song a clear tale in itself. Her smiles, her tears, her emotional torment all shine clearly through. This is a very difficult role and Patterson carries it off with panache.

The second act is more problematic. It is beautifully danced by members of Verb Ballets. It features Mark Tomasic, one of the very best of the local male dancers, who is ably supported by the female members of the corps. The only weakness in the dance troupe is Sydney Ignacio, who does great gymnastics, but falls short when appearing on stage with such strong dancing talents as Tomasic and Brian Murphy.

Tomasic, who is not only a proficient dancer, but an accomplished actor, is excellent. It would be interesting to see him cast in a theatrical production in a role such as Curly in ‘OKLAHOMA,’ where he could not only sing and act the role, but dance the Dream Ballet as well.

One can only wonder why Cortez, who is a very creative and inventive choreographer, didn’t just create a second act which more clearly tells the story of Joe (Tomasic) so that it parallels the search that Emma goes through in the first act. This is hinted at, but never becomes the total focus. A clear story line would have made the dance, balance the song.

Larry Goodpaster’s orchestra is excellent. Ismael Kabar’s cello solos in the second act are finely crafted.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Beck’s ‘SONG AND DANCE’ is well worth seeing. It is another feather in the crown of the production center which has become the best over all theatre in the area...taking on musicals, dramas and comedies--and doing them extremely well.

Friday, March 16, 2007

'10!' (MorrisonDance)

Morrison Dance uninspiring as part of DanceWorks 07

After each of the pieces of ‘10!,’ Morrison Dance Company’s program of short pieces, which they are presenting as part of DanceWorks 07, there was polite applause. This, in spite of the fact that it was opening night and many of the audience members were friends or family of choreographer Sarah Morrison, or her dancers. The tepid response was right on target.

Though Morrison is a very proficient dancer, her choreography lacks dynamism. It lacks vitality. Most of what goes on during her staging is static. At no time is there a “wow” factor.

Even her signature piece, SKETCHES OF RODIN,’ lacked the imagery of Rodin’s sculptures, which supposedly inspired the piece. Rodin’s works are strong, command attention, make themselves stand out. Morrison’s piece, which consisted mainly of Kalindi Stockton rolling around the floor moving a piece of “marble,” was understated and anything but breathtaking.

The highlight of the evening were the masks created by Scott Radke, Morrison’s husband and artistic collaborator. Too bad the choreography wasn’t up to the visual impact of the artwork.

Capsule judgment: If Morrison Dance is ever to develop a strong following like Groundworks, Inlet and Verb Ballets, Sarah Morrison is going to have to expand her repertoire by either letting lose with her own creative juices or supplement her work with some other choreographers who are capable of taking the dancers to a new level.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

THE CLEAN HOUSE (Cleveland Public Theatre)


‘THE CLEAN HOUSE,’ Sarah Ruhl’s award winning play, which is now in production at the Cleveland Play House, is the kind of show audiences will either love or hate. The overheard comments by exiting patrons at the conclusion ranged all over the place regarding their thoughts of the production.

The play was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize and won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for best play written in English by a female playwright in 2004. Yet, reviews of the show’s productions in New York and elsewhere were very mixed. It was added to and taken off several theatre’s production schedules due to questions over audience appeal.

Ruhl indicates that the germ for the play came from real life. According to the author, the opening monologue, “I didn’t go to medical school to clean my own house,” came from a comment she overheard at a cocktail party. Ruhl took this statement and rolled out a play which explores relationships and our need for purpose, while examining the Great American class divide. Isn’t it interesting that the upper and middle classes who want clean homes, hire the lower middle and lower classes to do the work!

One of the most fascinating aspects of the play is that the author look at the rituals of cleaning and death as parallel processes. According to Ruhl, “the byproducts of life are waste and chaos, every time we clean we try to keep chaos at bay.” She parallels that to the role of the doctor, the occupation of her lead character, who spends her days helping her patients fight the byproducts of their diseases, but won’t apply the same principles to her life and her home.

Don’t get the idea that ‘THE CLEAN HOUSE’ is a tragedy. It has very serious undertones, but it is also about jokes and ice cream and apples. In fact, the most important writing element of the script is the attempt to create the perfect joke. Our heroine finally conceives it, but, like life itself, we never quite hear it, we never really “get” it.

With that philosophical exposition, what’s the play about? Lane, a successful and exacting American doctor, believes her home should be spotless but wants nothing to do with the cleaning of it. Mathilde, the Brazilian maid hired to clean Lane’s house, is completely uninterested in housecleaning – her parents were the funniest people in their village and she is obsessively focused on her search for the perfect joke. Virginia, Lane’s sister, has a cleaning fetish and believes it immoral not to clean one’s home. Lane’s surgeon husband has fallen deeply in love with one of his patients, a dying woman who has a unique view of life and death. All this combines to make for a potentially thought-provoking experience.

The Cleveland Play House production has an excellent cast, is well paced by director Davis McCallum and has a startling attractive set by Andromache Chalfant. The use of projections to interpret the Portugese spoken lines is creative.

Ursula Cataan, who has a Salma Hayek personality and resemblance, is delightful as Matilda. Patricia Hodges is properly uptight as Lane. Beth Dixon gives a practical base to Virginia, Lane’s sister. Janis Dardaris shines as the dying Ana. Only Terry Layman disappoints as Lane’s husband. He never seems real. Part of this may be due to the unrealistic lines he is given by the playwright and the equally non-believable situation of trekking in Alaska with the goal of finding a tree which supposedly will cure Ana’s cancer. (Would a doctor do that?)

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: Seldom do I leave a theatre with a feeling of ambivalence. This was not the case with ‘THE CLEAN HOUSE.’ I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, I can’t recommend not seeing it, but I can’t say, “go.” I guess I’ll just have to go clean my house and delve into the psychology of the activity.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Juliette Regnier showcases talents in ‘SHORN’ at Dobama

Juliette Regnier readily admitted during the after-show discussion of ‘SHORN,’ now being performed at Dobama Theatre, that she is an actress, not a playwright. In spite of this, Regnier has penned what, for lack of a better description, is a performance piece entitled ‘SHORN.’

‘SHORN’ brings to life the stories of three French women, who had sex with Nazis during World War II. Much like Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘THE SCARLET LETTER,’ who was branded with wearing the scarlet “A” to identify her as an adulterer, these “collaborators” had their heads shaved and were marched through the streets as models of shame.

It mattered little that one was truly in love with the young German, another needed food and the third plied her trade as a prostitute and it would not have mattered what nationality her sex partner was.

‘SHORN,’ according to Regnier “looks at women as ‘collateral damage’ during war time through the lens of French women accused of being ‘complicit’ with the Nazis. She has obviously achieved this, at least in the eyes of the women who responded during the play’s after discussion.

In spite of what I consider to be a very compelling bit of acting, I have some problems with Regnier’s piece of work.

The first is the piece’s format. ‘SHORN’ starts and stops with several interludes. The pieces don’t really flow together. The use of a mime/clown to make bridges isn’t clearly defined. Most of the time the clown appears to be exactly what it is, a theatrical bridging device to loosely hold the parts together. If Regnier is going to go further with this piece, she needs to more completely develop why a clown was chosen and what the purpose of that figure is. As is, it’s just gimmick for the sake of gimmick.

In addition, it would seem to serve Regnier’s message better if she stressed her self inscribed purpose of, “And suddenly I was faced with the non-judgmental question of just how would a woman/I respond during the war?” Maybe her “clown” might challenge the audience with that question, thus developing the theme.

And, I did not find the woman clearly etched. Each should be more clearly fleshed out so that their underlying motives and their reasoning for their actions would clearer.

Capsule judgment: ‘SHORN,’ which is getting its world premiere at Dobama is an interesting evening of theatre, one that is thought provoking. Yet, because of its flawed script, ‘SHORN’ leaves one wishing for a more complete experience.

Thoroughly Modern Millie

‘THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE’ lights up at Carousel

There is an old adage in the theatre, “The show must go on!” There are lots of legends about performers going on stage in the midst of tragedies and illnesses. Carousel Dinner Theatre has a reality tale to add to the list. On Saturday, Hollie Howard, who plays the title role of Millie in Carousel’s THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE,’ fell off the stage during the afternoon preview performance of the show. That evening was opening night!

What to do?

In the make believe world of theatre, as exemplified in such shows as ‘42ND STREET’ the understudy goes on, does a smash-up job and becomes a star. Well, that’s not what happened at Carousel. They mount their shows in a week, so the understudy doesn’t really get to learn her/his part until the show is running.

Howard, complete with taped ankle, went on after some adjustments to the choreography. Ironically, this was not the first injury for this production. Director Marc Robin, early in rehearsals, tripped over a piece of scenery, and hurt himself. Opening night was his first night off crutches.

Howard’s being hobbled hurt no one. In fact, if the announcement hadn’t been made before the show, the audience wouldn’t have known the difference. Howard danced well, sang even better, and portrayed the role to perfection.

In contrast to many musicals which are turned into films, ‘THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE’ was first a movie. It opened in 1967 and stared Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, John Gavin and Carol Channing.

In the early 2000s, the movie was adapted for the stage. It maintained the basic story line of the movie but, in an effort to be politically correct, it toned down the stereotypical traits of the Asian characters in the film. (Some will still find those stereotypes offensive.)

The plot revolves around Millie Dillmount, who, in 1922 comes to the Big Apple from Kansas determined to marry her wealthy boss. She sheds her country girl image and becomes a “modern” flapper in order to hook her man. On her first day in NY, she accidentally trips Jimmy Smith, an apparently ne'er-do-well paper clip salesman. Yep, you guessed it. He isn’t a ne’er do well, and in the tradition of trite musicals, after a few obvious plot twists, they go off into the sunset. Well, into the bright lights of Broadway, to live happily ever after.

The show, which is filled with lots of upbeat songs and many dance numbers, including some great tap dance routines, is dynamic, thanks to Robin’s setting a lightening quick pace, clearly developing the characters, and adding some fun gimmicks (such as having the Chinese lines projected in English on screens on the sides and above the stage). But most of all, he explodes the stage with creative choreography.

The cast is excellent. Howard brings Millie to musical and dramatic life. Brian Ogilvie is properly wholesome as Jimmy Smith. He dances and sings well. Donna Ryan is so bad as the scheming Ms. Meers, that she is good. Christin Mortenson effectively lets loose her big voice in “Only in New York.” Lindsey Clayton is fun as Miss Flannery, an uptight boss who turns into a goodie. Jim Sorenson is Broadway handsome and effectively develops the over-bloated Trevor Graydon, the richie on whom Millie has her sights set. Even the male dancers, who are often the weak link in many musical productions, are excellent.

The music, the sets, the costumes all work.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Carousel’s ‘THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE’ is everything that makes for good dinner theatre...a sprightly production, featuring a well chosen cast, guided by excellent direction. If you like theatre-light and don’t want to think a lot, but have a good time, you’ll dance happily out of ‘THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE.’