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29 October 2007

Smokey Joe's in Flat Rock

Theater review: Songs of ’50s, ’60s get grand treatment
by Tim Reid, take 5 correspondent
published October 19, 2007 8:30 am

FLAT ROCK — Flat Rock Playhouse really rocks the house with “Smokey Joe’s CafĂ©: The Songs of (Jerry) Leiber and (Mike) Stroller.”

This exuberant musical review features the legendary songwriters’ pop/rock standards of the 1950s and ‘60s that were performed by Peggy Lee, Elvis, The Coasters and many others.

The show includes some of the best-known songs from the duo that is credited with marrying rhythm and blues with pop music.

Older members of the audience will thrill to the tunes of their youth such as “Jailhouse Rock,” “Yakkety Yak” and “Charlie Brown,” and a whole new generation will learn to appreciate the music.

Director Ray Kennedy has assembled a talented cast of mostly new faces at Flat Rock for this high-energy production that keeps the tunes coming almost nonstop.

Alexander Elisa, Joelle Lewis, Keldon LeVar Price and Terrill Williams form a close-harmony foursome, their tightly choreographed movements giving the music an extra energy.

Nova Y. Payton belts out some of the show’s most unforgettable blues tunes, relishing the persona of a strong-willed woman versus her wishy-washy men.

And Flat Rock favorite Amanda Treadway sizzles as the sultry blonde in “Teach Me How to Shimmy.”

Daniel Bogart is paired with Treadway in some of the show’s most engaging boy-girl reveries, and Jackie Burns and Wendy Hayes also provide strong vocals.

The show is worth going just to catch the red-hot “I’m a Woman.”

Musicians Steve Alford, Paul Babelay, Jim Beaver, Kip Brock, Charles Holland, Amy Elizabeth Jones and George Wilkins Jr. deliver the big sound required for some of this era’s best-loved songs like “Kansas City” and “On Broadway.”

It’s a little surprising that Flat Rock has scheduled such a big show so late in its season. Judging by the almost sold-out house on opening night, you had better get your tickets early.

“Smokey Joe’s” is smokin’ hot!

Tim Reid reviews theater for the Citizen-Times. He can be contacted at timreid4@charter.net.

21 October 2007


THEATER REVIEW: N.C. Stage Company’s ‘Macbeth’ is a ghostly Halloween treat
by Jim Cavener, Citizen-Times Correspondent
published October 21, 2007 12:15 am on www.citizen-times.com

ASHEVILLE — Not only is N.C. Stage Company opening its sixth season with a major production of the epic tragedy “Macbeth,” it is also inaugurating the new NCSC Chase Gallery of art in its lobby.

The gallery will display thematic exhibitions relevant to each show in the upcoming 2007-08 season. The first exhibition, “Vice & Virtue,” grows out of themes in “Macbeth” and consists of photography, pen and ink, and mixed-media art by local artists.

NCSC has established itself as the pre-eminent professional theater in Asheville, in great part because of the production standards of several shows attributed to, or based on, Shakespeare.

Twice it has done “Shakespeare’s R&J,” a zany take on “Romeo and Juliet.” Last year, it was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and early on in the company’s history, director Ron Bashford delivered a truly legendary production of “Hamlet,” which caused the regional theater world to sit up and take notice.

“Macbeth” as done by the NCSC, is not a costume drama that dazzles the audience with period drag from the royal court. The dazzle is in the script and the intensity of the acting.

The setting is limited to a timeless, ageless, glimmering Mylar scrim behind a sheet of clear plastic with paste-on, milky suggestions of trees.

Costumes are modern, grungy, grimy, monochromatic and reflecting the black-and-white world of Cecil Beaton. Costumer Shelley Porter inserts a couple of plaid, or tartan robes, about the only color on stage.

A clever conceit to emphasize the darkness of the material and bring grim reality to the house is the use of powerful hand-held LED flashlights for facial lighting, with virtually no other light source during the first 20 minutes or so. When well-aimed, this is an effective gimmick, but often the beams are misdirected and light more of the audience than the actors’ faces.

Other lighting use is skillful and earns kudos for designer Keith Kirkland.

Ten able actors take on the 27 roles in the dire drama, with more than a bit of gender-bending in this casting. Female Lords (Thanes, in Scots-speak), and male witches work well under Ron Bashford’s deft direction. John Crutchfield, Mike Coghlan, Bill Munoz, Hans Meyer, Michael MacCauley and Adam Vernon-Young do fine ensemble work.

Neela Munoz has a virtuoso vignette as the castle porter, while Lauren Fortuna is an apt Lady McDuff.

Jenn Miller Cribbs brings national credits that equip her with power in her Lady Macbeth. The mad scene is marvelous.

Company co-founder and artistic director Charlie Flynn-McIver approximates his excellence in the title role of NCSC’s 2003 “Hamlet,” and this Macbeth is everything a demanding director might wish.

The eerie, spooky opening and many successive scenes with ghosts, apparitions and other unnerving elements is appropriate for a production running through All Hallow’s Eve.

This is big people’s Halloween candy for the mind, with an inspired cast and adept technical values.

Jim Cavener writes on theater for the Citizen-Times. E-mail him at JimCavener@aya.Yale.edu.

17 October 2007


Hi all, this is not a review, but a mutual congratulation: I just got word that the readers of Mountain Xpress voted us third best blog in town. And we've only been operating for about 10 months! Yay! So, thanks, and congratulations to all of you for reading, contributing, and helping to make this site a valuable resource for the local performing arts scene.
Here is the link to the full article:

(also-- it's been pointed that my hyperlinks don't actually work. Sorry about that - I think I've got it fixed, now. If the one above works, we're good. If not, I'll keep working on it...)
Bernhard Grier

Laugh your Asheville

I just found this one on the XPress site (http://www.mountainx.com/ae/2007/review_laugh_your_asheville_off/)

Review: Laugh Your Asheville Off
by Alli Marshall on 10/15/2007

Though there’s some sort of show to check out every night of the week in Asheville (dance, theater, music, visual art, etc.) the one performing field that’s under-represented is comedy. Luckily, for stand-up fans, local comedian-turned-show producer Greg Brown is changing that.

Brown and his partner Rowan Lischerelli introduced the first-ever Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Festival back in July. The three-show run, held at Diana Wortham Theatre, brought an extensive roster of local and regional comics to downtown Asheville. But Brown and Lischerelli didn’t sit back and bask in the success of that first production. They immediately set about organizing other comedy events including last weekend’s one-night follow-up.

The Friday, Oct. 12, show at Diana Wortham featured Charlotte’s “Comedian of the Year” Joe Zimmerman as the host of the show along with other up-and-comers like Carlos Valencia, Felicia Gillespie and Justin Chambliss.

If you caught the July show, you recognized Zimmerman, Valencia and Chambliss. All three pretty much repeated their earlier performance to varying affect. Zimmerman’s riff on the Asheville scene hits pretty close to home (his bit about protesting Staples: “If we get office supplies, what’s next? Offices?"). Valencia’s schtick about STDs and having a terminal disease named after him was more awkward than funny. Comedians tend to ride that line between humorous and creepy, but Valencia edges closer to creepy for me. Then again, his MySpace quote is “Bringing unsettling creepiness back” — mission accomplished!

My favorite acts of the evening were headliner Dave Landau, whose laid-back delivery and banter with the audience made for a fun and fast-paced routine, and Asheville-based comedian Tom Chalmers, who started his set with an impression of a bluegrass band.

Chalmers came to WNC from New York City where he served as artistic director for Gotham City Improv. In Asheville, he teaches comedy writing workshops through Asheville Community Theatre. He also performs the annual one-man play, The Santaland Diaries.

On the whole, this second Laugh Your Asheville Off show was a fun evening with plenty of laugh out loud moments and a pleasantly surprising number of good regional artists. Hopefully what was originally intended as an annual festival will quickly become a quarterly event.

—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter


Again, C-T. Find the original at http://www.take5online.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200771011065
Sorry about the occasional half-sentence in this review-- I presume the paper printed better than the website, but I dropped my subscription some time ago, so this is the best I can do!

Theater review: ‘Ruthless!’ offers a study in bad taste
by Jim Cavener, take5 correspondent
published October 12, 2007 12:15 am

ASHEVILLE — “Ruthless!,” now running at Asheville Community Theatre’s 35below space, is high camp comedy. Nothing is sacred. This is an acquired taste but also tricky business, a mix of the good timing of farce, overstatement of melodrama, cleverness with lots of double-entendre and less-than-subtle interjections of bad taste.

Also required is a cast that can wring all the trashy nuances out of tasteless parody.

The players in “Ruthless!” are far better than the material they are working with. This script by Joel Paley is not bad, it’s just interminably silly and misses good chances to slip in more ironic pretense and gross excess.

There are ample allusions and asides, quick suggestions of gay icons and over-the-top interpretations of otherwise ordinary situations, but it misses some chances to be vulgar and naughty, while giving a great framework for successful send-up.

The plot twists and turns and writhes through wonderful territory. Director Eric Mills, who did “Miss Gulch Returns” two years ago at 35below, milks the material for more than it demands and gets bravado performances from the assembled crew. It is difficult to know who steals most of the scenes.

An emerging star

Any 12-year old in such a show has a leg up on accolades. Emily Eliot-Gaines plays young Tina, a demonic child who is determined to get the lead in the school play. This young woman holds her own among a mature cast of attention-getters as the kid everyone loves to hate.

Her stage mother from hell, Judy — later Ginger — is done ruthlessly by Beverly Todd, who comes equipped with a piercing voice that can be heard six blocks away.

Her selfless innocence, as well as her ruthless ambition in the second act, are way over-the-top.

Lori Beland Hilliard as Miss Thorn and Miss Bloch comes in close to the top as giving outrageous characterizations that work well.

Tamm’s outrageous side

Clearly dominating every scene he’s in is veteran local actor Peter Tamm as Sylvia St. Croix. Tamm is known as a serious actor, making this appearance all the more outrageous.

The costumes steal more scenes than these able actors. Linda Neal Underwood deserves kudos for the range of rags with which she adorns this cast.

Musical Director Ruth Sieber Johnson gives the sometimes-lame score the boost it needs and keeps the tempo up and racing toward the silly denouement.

05 October 2007


by Jim Cavener, Citizen-Times Correspondent

[editor's note-- this was forwarded to me as the full text of this review, a slightly shorter version of which was published in the Citizen-Times. -B.G. ]

Is it simple serendipity that Haywood Arts Regional Theatre opens it's spectacularly novel production of "Cabaret" the same week as Ken Burns' "The War" runs on PBS, as Asheville's immediate theatre project finished its run of "Copenhagen," while UNCA's Center for Diverstiy Education and Pack Library are opening thier month-long exhibition and programs on Anne Frank? Whether planned to coincide or not, this is a heady diet of powerful recollections of the Nazi horror in Europe some 70 years ago.
All this convergence on a horrendous historical event in mid-20th century is a learning experience and a powerful reminder of the worst of human atrocities. Director Charles Mills and company executive Steve Lloyd came up with a plan to make this an extraordinary production of a legendary classic of American Musical Theater. And effective it is.
Their approach was to construct a large platform out over the audience seating area, where the action takes place. The audience is seated at bistro tables on the traditional stage. Literally turning around Waynesville's Performing Arts Center, they have created more intimacy between the audience and actors, bringing the horror of Nazism close to all viewers. The cast serves as greeters and servers in the Kit-Kat Club before and between the acts. We become the 'good Germans' who are drawn into the seductive appeal of decadence, debauchery and deviousness that was Berlin in the 1930s.
Christopher Isherwood's first-hand stories of that time and place were altered for the stage by John van Druten ("I am a Camera") before musical masters Kandler and Ebb ("Chicago," "Kiss of the Spider Woman") got ahold of the material in the 1960s. With thier knack of catching sinister themes for musical presentation, "Cabaret" became the classic Broadway and film hit, making a star of Joel Grey and bringing this story to new audiences.
Mark Jones gives us an androgenous and seductive Emcee, with the help of gender-bending costumes by Cary Nichols and make-up by Beth Swanson. His slinky and sinister cabaret master of ceremonies suggests the way the German nation was programmed by the leaders of National Socialism. Jones carries the show with panache
The other major role whose talents match the music is Julie Kinter as Sally Bowles, the impish young ingenue from Britain who finds herself out of her depth in the turmoil of Berlin in the 1930s. Kinter can carry a tune and emote with the best of 'em. Her romantic interest is the boyish and winsome David Ostergaard as the young American, Clifford Bradshaw, who has come to Berlin to write -- reflecting Isherwood's own pilgrimage.
Touching performances were given by Casey Dupree and Stan Smith as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. They, too, carry the poignancy of this troubled time. Paul Heathman as Ernst Ludwig and Jennifer Sanner as Faurlein Kost advance the cause, and Sanner sings with elan. Among the Kit kat girls are Mary Katherine Smith, Christina McClellan and Kristen Pallota, who use those bentwood ice-cream shop chairs in the fine, erotic legacy of Bob Fosse. Beth Holmes' choreography captures the feel of the original.
The cabaret boys -- doubling as waiters and dancers -- do good dialect work and move with high male energy. Adam Kampouris, Joshua Merrell, Ian Olson and James Bradley add to the ambiance of this sad era in our recent history. Chuck Taft, Anne Rhymer, Linda Davis and David Bruce did their darndest to get the feel of the fine score by John Kandler. A few more real instruments and fewer electronic substitutes may have aided the support sounds behind the voices.

01 October 2007

ACT's Beauty

C-T, of course. The original is at http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200770920075
sorry this is so late.

Theater review: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ appeals to all
ACT actors, costumes bring classic to life
by Tim Reid, take 5 Correspondent
published September 21, 2007 12:15 am

Asheville Community Theatre thrills young and old with “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” the classic tale of a young maiden who transforms a fearsome beast.

Based on Disney’s award-winning animated film, the stage version has made this one of the best-loved stories of modern times. “Beauty” is an ambitious undertaking for any community theater with its lavish music, costumes and scenery, but ACT has risen to the challenge, summoning a level of talent that would have been unthinkable in earlier days.

Rachelle Roberts is enchanting as beautiful Belle, whom neighbors in the quaint French village regard as odd because she likes to read. Tony Lance gives an awesome performance as the handsome prince who is turned into the loathsome Beast when he refuses to give a beggar woman shelter for the night.

Belle has caught the eye of the town’s most eligible bachelor Gaston (Rod Leigh), who is so full of himself that he scarcely notices or cares that she can’t stand him. Gaston’s admiration for himself is exceeded only by his fawning friend LeFou (Trevor Worden).

When the Beast imprisons Belle’s eccentric inventor father Maurice (Bruce Henderson), she agrees to become his prisoner if he will free her father.

The former prince’s servants have fallen under the same curse that made him a Beast and are gradually being transformed into household objects instead of people. Cogsworth (Payton Turpin) is an uptight clock complete with winding stem, and Lumiere (Richard Blue) is morphing into elaborate candelabra. Ruth Butler and Lincoln Belford are delightful as Mrs. Potts and her son, Chip, who are finishing their transformation to a teapot and cup.

Time is running out for the Beast and his household servants — he must fall in love and find someone to love him, or the curse will become permanent.

Director Christopher Lynn, music director Ginger Haselden, scenic designer Jack Lindsay and costume designer Kate Russell, plus a wonderful cast, have created an unforgettable evening of theater.