Over the last 25 years, WIOD reporter/anchor Ed Goodman has reviewed and interviewed players from both professional and amateur theatre, music and dance companies from St Louis to South Florida. Ed earned a degree in Theatre Arts and has performed and directed in professional, and high-end amateur theatrical companies.
Actors Playhouse at The Miracle Theatre
Through December 29th
This very funny and heartfelt look at family interaction as we age, is based on the old Woody Allen joke “...If you wanna make God laugh, tell him your plans...”. I don’t know about God, but we sure laughed – and cried - a lot at the Actor’s Playhouse production of “Making God Laugh” running now through the 29th.
As we peered through the looking glass and saw much of our own family life coming back at us, it reminded me that regardless of where we are or what our background may be, all families have the same wants, desires, dreams, plans and issues. Shown through a series of those potentially treacherous family get-togethers, spread over 30+ years time, “Making God Laugh” makes us take a deep, poignant, realistic, funny (sometimes hysterical) look at what makes all families tick – change or lack thereof.
(L-R) Michael Focas, Angie Radosh, Peter Haig, Deborah L Sherman, Gregg Weiner
Part of what makes a show like this tough to do is the character’s aging before to our very eyes. The show covers a span of more than 3 decades, so we’ve got to see the transitions to believe them. Helped by Elmo E Lanclos III’s spot on musical and news clip transitions that set the time immediately, the solid cast makes the aging process real and believable. And we see how fast things can change in a relatively short period of time. We look at ourselves in the process and how we changed during those 10 year slices of history. Did we really dress like that, do those things? Will any of us every live down how we acted leading up to Y2K (a very funny scene in the show by the way)? How could we ever get mad at our kids!
Across the board top notch performances were headed up by empty nesters Bill (Peter Haig) and Ruthie (Angie Radosh). Solid turns as, Thomas the priest (Michael Focas), Maddie (Deborah L. Sherman) the rebel, aspiring actress, school teacher and Richard (Gregg Weiner) the former football player who’s still looking for himself round out the family circle. Strong performances by everyone reflects how all of us deal with our families – but mostly our mothers. Make no mistake, this show is about the matriarch and Radosh owns it. She’s compelling in every way, whether as the perfect mom, the queen of Catholic guilt, the woman with a very secret past or as the devastatingly real picture of a woman lost in different world. A great performance.
(L-R) Angie Radosh, Michael Focas, Deborah L Sherman, Gregg Weiner, Peter Haig
Sean Grennan’s tight script allows us to take a look at the dysfunction and control points within families without the morbidity that so often comes with family dramas. While the message is clear, it’s presented in a way that doesn’t beat you over the head, but rather touches you softly in the heart and mind. David Arisco’s always solid directing gets the most out of his cast and hits the right notes of comedy, sympathy, empathy and connection. Gene Sayffer’s set and design looks just like my grandmother’s house (and probably yours), including the holy pictures.
Both of us - God and the audience – laughed a lot during “Making God Laugh” but there’s really no joke. It’s just life. Laughter and pain are the glues that hold families together – and this show has them both in abundance. Don’t miss it.
Tickets at the Box Office at 305-444-9293 or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org
The pre-show announcement for “We Will Rock You” says it all – “…it’s live and it’s loud…”. Arguably one of the most well known anthems of a generation, the title song, and the music of Queen, come to life in an energetic homage to one of the best selling bands in music history. WWRY, as it’s come to be known, is now playing through Sunday at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, and it will rock your socks off.
WWRY is now in its 11th year in London and plays just about everywhere – except Broadway - worldwide. It’s the ultimate cover band show, featuring 24 hit songs out of Queen’s monumental, innovative discography. This touring cover band hits most all of the right notes.
Buddy (Ryan Knowles) at the Hard Rock
In order for WWRY to be something more than a concert you gotta have a story to weave all the music together. So, someone evidently said to British comedian, Ben Elton, “…c’mon, lets write some stuff to set up these great songs…”. And he did, and lean as it is, it serves its purpose well and is rather funny at times. As is the case with many stage musicals over the years, the script is secondary to the music. And that’s definitely the case here. (To his credit, Elton updates the show as it ages and this production is no exception with references now to Justin Beiber, Lady GaGa, Britney, Miley, American Idol and others, folded in now).
WWRY is set in an Orwellian future devoid of all personality. We’ve become digital automatons on an “iPlanet” world run by Globalsoft Corporation with URLs as names - robotic drones living in an online world. Cue the young, rebellious Bohemians who want change by bringing back the music that’s been banned (sound familiar Hippies, Gen Xer’s and Millennials) starting their journey in, of all places, a shell of a Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas. But they persevere. They ban together, they get it together, they take it on the road, finally figuring it all out at Graceland, ultimately taking down the corporate gods and saving the world with music. End of story. That’s why we love rock and roll.
Back to Front: Buddy (Ryan Knowles), Galileo (B.J. Crum), Scaramouche (Ruby Lewis)
The cast is led by Brian Justin Crum as Galileo, and Ruby Lewis as Sacramouche who make their statement with terrific singing. Their duet of “Who Wants to Live Forever” was sensational – as was Lewis’ turn rocking out “Somebody To Love”. For Crum’s part, he saves the best to last with a great lead on the show’s title song and segue into “We Are The Champions”. Ryan Knowles as Buddy and P.J. Griffith as the David Bowiesque Khashoggi brought out musical winners with “These are the Days of Our Lives” and “Seven Seas of Rhye” respectively.
(L-R) Scaramouche, Galileo, Oz (Erica Peck), Brit (Jared Zarilli)
Jessica Crouch as Killer Queen seemed off a bit the entire evening – too bad for such a huge part in the show, carrying the weight of some major, recognizable songs. Unfortunately, her lower range was difficult to pick up in every song, making some of the great riffs in “Killer Queen”, “Fat Bottomed Girls” and the classic “Another One Bites The Dust” come off as weak and mousey. I don’t know if it was just an off night or a bad microphone or mic mix – but I know there’s a better voice inside that body than what we got to hear.
And speaking of bad tech…what’s the deal with not being able to get a good mix between the vocals and the driving, loud music of Queen. C’mon sound crew, it’s called audio mixing for a reason – let us hear both.
All in all, “We Will Rock You” is all about the music. The crowd was rockin’ and on their feet at the end of the show. A standing ovation? Not so much. It’s more of a well earned show of respect and reverence for a band that has left a deep and indelible mark on the history of rock and roll. Go see the show for its music and fun nostalgia - you won’t be disappointed.
“WWRY” runs through Sunday at the Arsht Center. Tickets are available at the box office or online at www.arshtcenter.org.
What can you call a musical that violates every sensibility, crosses every boundary, skewers cultural and social decorum, is vulgar, tasteless and downright offensive? You call it the multi Tony Award (9, including Best Musical) winning show “The Book of Mormon” now open at the Broward Center.
The show, created by “South Park’s” Trey Parker and Matt Stone along with “Avenue Q” creator Robert Lopez should tell you everything you need to know about where this show is going to go. If that doesn’t do it, the parental warning on the ticket would. But if you need more – they don’t even list the songs in the program, because some of the titles are extreme, to say the least. At its worst “The Book of Mormon” is an equal-opportunity diatribe. At its best, and in the true spirit of “South Park”, the show is rude, crude, silly and juvenile. And at times is very funny.
The story revolves around two Mormon missionaries who are sent to Uganda to convert the masses. From there Elder Price (Mark Evans) and Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill) do their version of the door-to-door mission work. Along the way comes the beautiful Nabulungi (Samantha Marie Ware) the symbol of the faith and hope that perhaps everyone aspires to with religion. There's also a one-eyed warlord, a tribal leader who has big trouble with God, a tribesman who has big trouble with maggots living in a certain part of his anatomy and Elder McKinley (Grey Henson) the leader of another group of Mormons who run the gamut from the dance line of a high-camp Busby Berkeley musical number (sparkling red vests and all) to the chorus in “Priscilla, Queen of The Desert”.
For their parts, the cast deals with the script and music as best they can. A few numbers stand out like, “Turn It Off”, “Man Up”, “Baptize Me” and “I Am Africa” but overall it’s not great music. The script seems, at times, like an overwritten episode of the TV show (hmmmm…wonder where that comes from) with bits that go on too long and story lines that drag, particularly in the 2nd act.
In the end, suffice it to say, “The Book of Mormon” is satire at its best - and worst. If offends most everyone who has a scintilla of caring in their body. But, it is satire – and it is designed to offend and get us thinking about the world (specifically religion) around us. With apologies for associating it to the true genre, it’s theatre of the absurd to the max.
If you not a fan of the juvenile humor that is the hallmark of “South Park” you may find “The Book of Mormon” not quite to your liking. On the other hand, if that style of in-your-face, break you down, beat you up, humor is what you like bust out the cash and head over to the Broward Center. The show runs through December 22nd.