Wednesday, April 25, 2018

theatre review - MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY - Mesa Community College Theatre and Film Arts - April 20, 2018

the cast
photo by Kiri Malolo
Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 28th.

"...Anne Washburn's Mr. Burns, a post-electric play takes our fascination with pop culture and TV shows, and with the classic animated sitcom "The Simpsons" in particular, to new heights as she crafts an odd though entirely intriguing black comedy set in a post-apocalyptic future. While it's a bit long and the third act will clearly have some audience members scratching their heads in either boredom or confusion, or both, Mesa Community College's production features a cast who do well to balance the comedy and drama under Ron May's astute direction..." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

theatre review - THE COLOR PURPLE - National Tour: ASU Gammage - March 17, 2018


Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 22nd.

"Based on Alice Walker's novel, The Color Purple is a moving and beautiful, yet also slightly sad, musical journey of one African-American woman and the people in her life, set over a forty-year period. While the show is somewhat disjointed, and the score isn't entirely memorable, the national tour of the musical, which plays at ASU Gammage through April 22nd, features several individuals who understudied or played their roles in the recent Tony-winning revival of the show and, with their stellar contributions, is a rich and emotional experience.... However, the score, which is a mostly forgettable combination of gospel, blues and jazz, and the book, which includes very little dialogue and isn't much more than a series of strung together scenes that hit the major plot points of the novel, leave much to be desired in giving clarity to both the changing time periods and some of the development of the people in Celie's life...The lack of set doesn't help at all in determining the location or period of the scenes...fortunately, Doyle has ensured his actors excel in their portrayals with performances that are rich, nuanced and full of fire.." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

theatre review - THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY - Arizona Broadway Theatre - March 15, 2018

Cassandra Klaphake and Bryant Martin
Photo by Scott Samplin
Click here for more information on this production that runs through May 13th.

"... a simple yet compelling story of two lost souls who form a deep connection over just a few short days in rural Iowa. While I have some issues with the show itself...the musical adaptation works very well in a rewarding and intimate production at Arizona Broadway Theatre...While the score is great, and includes a wide range of musical styles, there are a lot of romantic ballads and, with the simple plot, even though it is portrayed realistically, it still feels a bit long...With a voice that easily maneuvers its way through the challenging score and a natural acting style that excellently portrays the motherly compassionate traits of this woman, while also beautifully demonstrating the challenges that Francesca faces, this is the best performance I've seen from (Cassandra) Klaphake...As Robert...Bryant Martin injects an element of quiet mystery and a beautiful singing voice that is polished and pure...The plot does require the two leads fall for each other almost immediately, which Klaphake and Martin maneuver through admirably, though the change from strangers to lovers is a bit too dramatic. I have to believe the connection and progression will be more realistic after they have a few more performances under their belts...may not be a perfect show, but with a beautiful score and a very good cast, the intimate production that Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting does well to deliver on the emotional choices and decisions that Francesca and Robert make... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

theatre review - LEGALLY BLONDE - ASU Lyric Opera Theatre - April 13, 2018

Caelan Creaser, Drake Sherman, and Cast
photo by Tim Trumble
Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 22nd.

"The sleeper 2001 film Legally Blonde, which starred Reese Witherspoon, was adapted into the 2007 Broadway musical that has become a frequent choice of regional theatres across the country. With a fun, infectious score and likable characters, it's easy to see why so many theatres present this musical. Along with the fun, warm and rewarding story, ASU Lyric Opera Theatre's production also has a perfect cast, top notch direction, and inspired choreography. The end result is both joyful and joyous...Caelan Creaser is excellent as Elle. She injects the character with the right combination of spunk, compassion, a big heart, good comic timing, and also a sure-footed serious side to bring Elle vibrantly to life while also letting us see that she has her flaws... Director/choreographer Roy Lightner keeps the pace of the show lively, with swift direction, seamless scene changes, and superb choreography that is infused with humor and always-changing steps and moves..." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - 12 ANGRY JURORS - Zao Theatre - April 12, 2018

the cast
photo by Mickey Bryce
Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 28th.

"12 Angry Jurors is a superb, dramatic ensemble play where each of the twelve actors who play jurors deliberating a murder trial gets a moment in the spotlight. Zao Theatre's production of this popular, well-written play features a good cast and sharp direction which results in a passionate and intense presentation of this classic drama.... Zao's cast is led by Matthew Cary as the lone "not guilty" voting juror, who quietly and slowly works his concerns on the rest of the jurors. ..Cary so simply but naturally and effectively portrays this man who provides the one constant glimmer of hope throughout the play...Janis Webb and Robert Peters are the two obstinate and highly vocal antagonists of the piece. ..They both do well in portraying the opposite side of view from the one that Cary's juror is on...Director Mickey Bryce can be commended for his superb, taut direction...a thought-provoking production of this classic drama with a good cast and firm direction that immediately pull you into the action. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

theatre review - THE UNDERPANTS GODOT - Nearly Naked Theatre - April 8, 2018

Amie Bjorklund, Jason M. Hammond, and Daniel Zemeida
photo by Laura Durant
Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 28th.

"...I try to always question when someone reinterprets a play or musical, especially when it seems the changes detract from the original intent of the piece. Duncan Pflaster's comedy The Underpants Godot, which is receiving its Arizona and West Coast premiere in a fun, thought-provoking and fairly solid Nearly Naked Theatre production, is a humorous look at the theatre business that focuses on what happens when a director reinterprets Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot where the actors all appear in their underwear or completely nude...a reimagined production still has to serve and enlighten the original work. The Underpants Godot succeeds in meeting that task, as it is an intriguing look into the limits of personal interpretation of a well-known piece of drama while also being a compelling case for the defense of the author's original intent. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Monday, April 9, 2018

theatre review - LOW DOWN DIRTY BLUES - Arizona Theatre Company - April 8, 2018



Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 22nd.

"Welcome to Big Mama's, a down and dirty blues club in Chicago where a trio of singers will take you on a two-hour musical journey as they perform over two dozen blues songs. Low Down Dirty Blues, the jukebox musical set at Big Mama's and having its Phoenix premiere at Arizona Theatre Company, may be slight with only a wisp of a story, but the performers in this production are excellent as they infuse the songs with heat, humor, and a big dose of emotion... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

concert review - VANESSA WILLIAMS WITH SETH RUDETSKY - Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts - April 7, 2018



"The final concert in this year's "Broadway @ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts" series featured multiple Grammy, Emmy and Tony nominee Vanessa Williams. While Williams may not have as vast a Broadway career as past performers in this series, her life story, which has its fair share of ups and downs, is incredibly fascinating. Williams' down to earth and honest conversation about her past was equally matched by her warmth, style, and rich vocal delivery of numerous show tunes and pop hits she's performed over her thirty-year career... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

theatre review - LITTLE WOMEN - Valley Youth Theatre - April 6, 2018

Kendra Richards, Sara Pansing, Tatum Dial, Stephanie Larson, and Lily Castle
Photo Courtesy of Valley Youth Theatre
Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 22nd.

"... For over twenty years Bobb Cooper has been nurturing and guiding youth of all ages at Valley Youth Theatre, and their production of the musical adaptation of Little Women is a thrilling, emotional journey which features some of the best and brightest youth talent in town. The success of this production is not just a testament to Cooper's keen directorial and casting decisions but also to the dedication and talent of the production's young cast.... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST - Hale Centre Theatre - April 5, 2018

Spencer Dooley, Clara Bentz, Aaron Blanco, Shelby Daeffler, and Laura Soldan
Photo by Dave Dietlein
Click here for more information on this production that runs through May 12th.

"Oscar Wilde's enormously popular comedy The Importance of Being Earnest is infused with a combination of elegance, style, and an abundance of comical bon mots as it pokes fun at social customs in late 1890s England. The witty nature of Wilde's most popular play and the heightened style of the dialogue require a keen attention to detail in order to prove truly successful. Fortunately, Hale Centre Theatre's production features a talented cast who achieve comically rich performances which is matched by direction that expertly balances the humor with the romance of this classic comedy... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

theatre review - IN THE HEIGHTS - Desert Foothills Theater - April 1, 2018

Reginald Graham, Jonny Ramirez, Sonia Rodriguez Wood, and Issie Ocampo
Photo by Jeremy Andorfer of Vangelis Productions

Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 15th.

".Long before composer Lin-Manuel Miranda turned the life of Alexander Hamilton into the blockbuster, epic musical Hamilton, he created, with bookwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes, In the Heights, a beautiful and simple, yet just as impressive, musical that captures the hopes and dreams of a group of neighbors in New York City. In the Heights follows a young shop owner and the members of his tightknit community as they encounter change and discover what it means to be "home." With just a few small shortcomings, Desert Foothills Theater's production of this Tony-winning musical features an exceptional cast and solid direction, along with an in-the-round design that brings an intimacy and immediacy to this universal story...." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

theatre review - HENRY IV, PART I - Southwest Shakespeare Company - March 24, 2018

Tony Latham and Joshua Murphy and Cast
photo by Laura Durant


"Long before "Game of Thrones" portrayed fictional families pitted against each other in a fight to see who will ultimately reign over a kingdom, William Shakespeare's history plays depicted a combination of actual and fictional figures in 15th century England and dramatized the feuds and friendships between such monarchs as Richard II and Henry IV. Southwest Shakespeare Company's production of Henry IV, Part I features a small ensemble of very talented actors and spirited direction that effectively balances the humor and drama in this Shakespeare classic.... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

theatre review - SPIN - Brelby Theatre Company - March 25, 2018

Melody Chrispen (far right) and Cast
photo by Shelby Maticic
Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 14th.

"Anyone who has ever been a member of a group of people that spends a lot of time together knows that these close relationships can quickly evolve into a surrogate family who collectively experience both the highs and lows of life. With realistic dialogue and characters that represent a diverse group of individuals, Shelby Maticic's drama, Spin, playing in a world premiere production at Brelby Theatre through April 14th, features a solid cast who throw themselves (literally and figuratively) into this story of a family that is formed by a group of female roller derby skaters who bond together as they face good times and bad.... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

theatre review - IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT - Don Bluth Front Row Theatre - March 22, 2018

Harmon Swartz and Katherine Martin
Photo Courtesy Don Bluth Front Row Theatre


"The "screwball comedy" was a staple on the silver screen in the 1930s and '40s. One of the best in this genre, featuring witty, fast-paced dialogue and madcap adventures and also centering around the battle of the sexes or the struggle between the classes, was It Happened One Night. This Frank Capra directed movie wasn't only a box office smash but also won big at the Oscars, receiving the top five awards for Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor and Screenplay. That screenplay, written by Robert Riskin, with additional input from director Frank Capra, has been brought to life on stage at the Don Bluth Front Row Theatre in Scottsdale in a production that is as rewarding, rich and whimsical as the original film, with standout performances by Katherine Martin and Harmon Swartz... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

cabaret review - Christine Ebersole with Seth Rudetsky - Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts - March 17, 2018

highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

"Early in her career, two-time Tony winner Christine Ebersole served as both an understudy and a last minute replacement for the female lead of two big Broadway musicals. Last week, Ebersole found herself back in this position when she took over for Laura Benanti, who had to bow out due to a family emergency, for a concert with Seth Rudetsky at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts....Even after enduring a nightmarish 12-hour journey to get to Arizona from New York due to having to change to a later flight after mechanical problems on their first flight, Ebersole was in spectacular voice and entertained the audience with stories of her past, both comical and serious.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)