Tuesday, February 9, 2016

theatre review - PERÔ, OR THE MYSTERIES OF THE NIGHT - Childsplay - January 30, 2016

Katie McFadzen and Jon Gentry
photo: Tim Trumble

"... Perô, or the Mysteries of the Night is a unique production that features puppets, music, and a cast of four to tell a fairly simple love story. Childsplay’s collaboration with the Dutch theatre troupe Speeltheater Holland, while intriguing and enthralling for more open minded theatre goers, may be a bit too avant-garde for younger audience members but those who are willing to let their imaginations soar will find much to like. The play follows a simple, timeless and often told love story about a shy man who is in love with a woman. But he finds his heart broken when he isn’t able to speak his thoughts and things don’t go the way he plans. ... It is charming, beguiling and also part musical with operatic flourishes and a huge dollop of romance...the European flair and touches of commedia dell’arte in the production may be new and different for some theatregoers, and catch them off guard, Onny Huisink directs with a high sense of theatrical fluidity that is captivating. ...While it is an intriguing concept, and something that you most likely won’t see in town from other theatre companies, the sophisticated theatrical approach may come off a bit pretentious or even confusing, especially for those who are used to more traditional (ie: “American”) children’s theatre productions. But Perô is full of creativity, and this simple, thoughtful and enchanting story will peak your imagination and engage those with curious minds. -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - WINDFALL - Brelby Theatre Company - January 29, 2016

Shelby Maticic, Devon Mahon, and David Magadan
Photo by Fernando Perez

 "The people at Brelby Theatre Company pride themselves on highlighting new works. They are currently presenting the world premiere of Brelby co-founder Brian Maticic's Windfall, which is a funny black comedy with some poignant moments. Featuring a talented cast, composed of several Brelby company members, the end result is a witty and hilarious comedy that is a welcome addition to the Phoenix theatre scene...Maticic writes very authentic dialogue and characters. While you may think you know where the plot is going, he takes it to unexpected places, which is very good. The dramatic scenes, while touching, are a bit less effective, only because of how funny the scenes are leading up to them. ...But there is a bit of unevenness, especially in the tone toward the last half of the second act, which is my only complaint about the play. Overall, it is a good new work. The cast deliver the humorous lines and situations very well ...Fernando Perez is effective with his direction, not letting the tone shifts be too abrupt and staging the emotional scenes with a natural ease. ...Well directed, with a talented cast, Windfall is an unpredictable black comedy that will keep you guessing. It is witty and thoughtful, with realistic characters and natural dialogue—another welcome new play from Brian Maticic and Brelby Theatre Company."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - LA CAGE AUX FOLLES - Fountain Hills Theater - January 28, 2016

Roger Prenger, Sky Donovan, and Patrick Russo
Photo by Patty Torrilhon

Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 14th.

 "... with an optimistic message at its center and a heart-filled story about family that everyone could relate to, La Cage aux Folles became a big fat Broadway smash, won six Tony Awards including Best Musical, Book and Score, and ran for over four years. Now, more than thirty years since it first premiered, the central story and lovable characters still resonate and Fountain Hills Theater's production is a winner, featuring a spectacularly outlandish, yet lovingly grounded, performance by Patrick Russo.......the central theme of acceptance still has relevance. Jerry Herman's songs are still vibrant, with the anthems "I Am What I Am" and "The Best of Times," and the ballads "Song on the Sand" and "Look Over There," still exceptionally moving. Harvey Fierstein's book is succinct, fast paced but full of emotion, pathos, and many laugh out loud moments....Sure, the "La Cage aux Folles" nightclub musical sequences may not have as much glitz and glamor as those in a larger production, but the intimacy of the Fountain Hills stage allows a deeper connection with the characters.Director Peter J. Hill gets just about everything right with this production. He manages to make almost every comic moment zing, but also ensures that the emotional heart at the center of the characters beats strong. He has cast four talented men in the main roles, plus a fun group of actors to play the kooky ensemble and the wild "Cagelles" dancers. As Georges and Albin, Roger Prenger and Patrick Russo form a realistic duo...Russo is simply sensational as Albin...He runs the gamut of emotions and is at times strong and at other times weak, campy at times yet also deeply serious. Russo has a lovely stage presence and singing voice...Prenger makes for a charming host of the club and brings a stern yet loving tenderness to the relationship with Russo's Albin. Both Prenger and Russo have a firm emotional connection with each other and the other actors in the show.As the mostly self-absorbed son Jean-Michel, Sky Donovan is appealing, with a sweet demeanor. Even though Jean-Michel implores his father to pretend to be "normal" for just the one night, and to get Albin out of the house, the emotional pleas never come across as insulting....Naughty, witty and full of heart, I highly recommend a visit to the wacky, seedy but very loving drag nightclub and the endearing production of La Cage aux Folles at Fountain Hills Theater."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE - January 27, 2016

Tracy Payne Black, Andrew Lipman, Emily Lynne Aiken, and Brett Aiken
photo: Wade Moran

 "Over a series of vignettes and songs, both comical and sincere, the musical revue I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change tackles many phases of a relationship. ...Theater Works in Peoria presents a smartly directed production of this hit show with a very talented cast.
With book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro (Tony winner for Memphis) and music by Jimmy Roberts, a cast of four play a wide range of characters who appear in short vignettes that cover the journey from dating to marriage, with failures and triumphs encountered along the way. ..DiPietro's dialogue is smart, realistic, and charming yet also moving in the more serious scenes. His lyrics are just as good. Unfortunately Roberts' music doesn't fare as well, with none of the songs having any hooks, phrases, or melodies that you'll remember after the curtain call. Director Brett Aiken has cast a very talented foursome who excel in making the comedic moments funny and the dramatic scenes poignant. While it might seem like nepotism that Aiken cast himself and his wife, Emily Lynne Aiken, they are both exceptional, as are Tracy Payne Black and Andrew Lipman. There aren't any moments where the four don't excel...The four cast members also have nice voices and great chemistry as well as astute facial expressions. They add plenty of thought to their interpretations and hit a range of emotional levels in both the scenes and the songs. While the space is small, Aiken's staging works well....Steve Hilderbrand's music direction achieves lovely sounds from the cast and the two-piece band. Tamara Treat's costumes and Jacob Hamilton's hair and make-up designs are fun and fresh...I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change is far from a perfect musical, but it's still a fun journey through life and the ups and downs of a relationship. It's just too bad the songs aren't as good as the book scenes."
 -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS, Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre - January 24, 2016

George Piccininni-Avery
photo: Heather Butcher

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 13th.

 "Neil Simon's coming of age comedy Brighton Beach Memoirs is a humorous look at the dynamics of family relationships, but it is also full of heart and touches upon the complexities of life. The play takes us back to a more gentle and innocent time with well-drawn characters and a tightly constructed plot that includes plenty of laughs and touching moments. Desert Stages in Scottsdale presents a winning, well-honed production that is both entertaining and rewarding, with a talented cast who are giving sincere performances....Director Rick Davis balances the humor and heart in the play, never letting the comical moments get too sappy and ensuring the dramatic moments land appropriately. He also has found a small talented cast who all create finely shaded portrayals. As Eugene, George Piccininni-Avery is full of charm. He has a winning delivery in his narration as he reports on the trials and tribulations of his family. Piccininni-Avery is engaging and enduring in the part and does quite well with many of Eugene's comical lines. He doesn't quite land every joke, but I have faith that, given a few more performances to get the timing right, he will. ...Heidi Carpenter and Wade Moran portray Eugene's parents Kate and Jack. Carpenter is exceptional as the strong woman who tries to hold the family together. ...Moran also does well in showing us that Jack is concerned about his family and worries about them, yet also is attentive to their needs...While the Jerome family may not be as complex as those families in recent prize winning dramas such as August: Osage County and Next to Normal, Brighton Beach Memoirs is still a rich story of one family working through the challenges that life brings them. Simon's story may have characters that wear their hearts on their sleeves, but it is a timeless story that shows that love and laughter and the power of love and family will always win the day. DST's production has a fine cast and clear direction, resulting in a charming, funny, and touching theatrical treat."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

cabaret review - JANE LYNCH: SEE JANE SING! - Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts - January 23

photo courtesy Jane Lynch
/ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
"Not your typical cabaret show, Jane Lynch's See Jane Sing! is a (mostly) theme-less evening of comical songs, funny patter, and irreverent humor. Lynch brought her show to Scottsdale's Center for the Performing Arts last Saturday night where her sure-footed comic delivery and warm vocals wowed the sold out audience... Lynch's smart and sassy show, somewhat reminiscent of a 1970s TV variety show in how eclectic, outlandish and comedic it is, succeeds in being a well thought out concert that turns your typical cabaret show on its ear, while at the same time playing to all of the traditional cabaret requirements. ..Lynch's easygoing, warm, bright and somewhat folksy delivery of the songs may also come as a shock to those who only know her from her Emmy winning role on "Glee" ..Yes, Lynch can carry a tune, and carry it very well, but she also knows how to wring the comic moments from even some of the most serious songs. Backed by The Tony Guerrero Quintet, ..Lynch started the show off with the loopy "Wishes" that featured the repeated nonsensical lyric, "If wishes are rainbows, so am I." The jazzy, risqué song "Slappin' the Cakes on Me" followed, receiving a well-mannered delivery from the singer. Those two songs set the tone for the entire show: offbeat, adult and very funny. Lynch's close friend Kate Flannery, who played Meredith Palmer on the TV show "The Office," joined in for most of the evening, providing harmony, back-up vocals, and humorous banter and quips. Their relationship was reminiscent of Sonny and Cher's on their 70s TV series: great chemistry, love and respect for each other, tight harmonies while at the same time mocking and making fun of themselves and their stage partner. Irving Berlin's "Mr. Monotony" received a lush and fairly classical delivery from the pair while Fiddler on the Roof's heartbreaking "Far From the Home I Love" became an up-beat, driving and rousing number that worked splendidly. ...Lynch's undeniable likability and her clear, warm vocals brought a professional shine to the hilariously inappropriate nature of many of the numbers. Her See Jane Sing! show is both unexpected and exciting, full of harmony and a respect and craftsmanship that is fresh and fun but also full of heart"  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - CALENDAR GIRLS - Phoenix Theatre - January 23, 2016

Elyse Wolf, Shari Watts
photo: Erin Evangeline Photography

Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 7th.

"The 2003 British comedy film Calendar Girls was a big hit at the box office. Based on the true story of a group of women in Northern England who seductively pose for a nude calendar to raise funds for Leukemia Research, the movie was adapted into a play and Phoenix Theatre presents the Arizona premiere with a superb cast of some of the top actresses in the Valley....... there is minimal drama beyond Chris' butting heads with Marie and some minor confrontations and misunderstandings among the women. And, while the comical moments work best, the dramatic ones lose a little impact without the benefits of film close-ups. Fortunately, Phoenix Theatre's cast is top drawer featuring the cream of the crop of the Valley's "mature" actresses, plus a stellar turn by newcomer to the area Elyse Wolf, who plays Chris. Wolf and Shari Watts, as Annie, form a realistic pair of best friends. Wolf has great comedic timing while Watts gives a lovely, assured delivery in the sensitive moments of the play. Johanna Carlisle, Patti Davis, Cathy Dresbach, and Debra K. Stevens round out the main female roles, with each delivering well thought out characters with some depth, even though the script doesn't always give them much to play off of...Director EE Moe achieves a fast-paced production and derives well balanced performances from her entire cast, letting the comedy shine bright but not overstepping the emotion at the core of the story. The nude scenes are discreetly staged but also delivered with hilarious results....While the theatrical version of Calendar Girls adds very little to the joys of the film, it does result, like the movie, in a heartwarming and moving affair. And seeing some of the best actresses in town having a field day, baring both their hearts and their bodies, is a joyous enough reason to pay them a visit."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

theatre review - GRAND CONCOURSE - Theatre Artists Studio - January 22, 2016

Tom Noga, Shelby Daeffler, and Debra Rich
Photo by Mark Gluckman
Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 31st.

 "Compassion and forgiveness are at the center of Heidi Schreck's Grand Concourse, receiving its Arizona premiere in a smart and subtle production with a gifted cast from Theatre Artists Studio. Set in a soup kitchen in the Bronx, the drama shows that all of us, whether rich or poor, religious or atheist, have flaws; and her dialogue and characters are both honest and succinct, with no extraneous moment in the swift-moving two-hour piece. Nun Shelley oversees the soup kitchen that resides in a former church on the Grand Concourse, a major roadway in the Bronx..New 19-year-old volunteer Emma arrives to help in the kitchen and, through a series of short scenes that take place over the next several months, we see how Emma proves to have both positive and negative influences on all of those around her....The cast is pretty terrific. Debra Rich's portrayal of Shelley perfectly displays the many sides of the character. ...As Emma, Shelby Daeffler is very convincing as an impulsive, out of control and just a little bit crazy college drop-out. ...Luke Gomez brings the right level of care and understanding to Oscar...As Frog, the homeless man who has made the soup kitchen his home, even sometimes camping outside in the rectory, Tom Noga is brilliant. ...Director Richard Powers-Hardt is adept in achieving authentic, moving performances from his cast and also having the scenes flow naturally and realistically. ...Grand Concourse is a play about second chances and, while it may not have all of the answers to the questions it brings up, and the ending doesn't resolve everything, it is a subtly moving and ultimately engrossing tale of faith, failure, and forgiveness. Theatre Artists Studio's production has a great cast and clear direction and the end result is especially rewarding."
 -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - THE COMEDY OF ERRORS - Southwest Shakespeare Company - January 21, 2016

Tony Latham, Jeremiah James, Gary Keast, Beau Heckman,
Wyatt Kent, and William Wilson
Photo by Mark Gluckman
Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 31st.

 "...Southwest Shakespeare Company scored a hit earlier in the season with their idea to move The Merry Wives of Windsor into the sitcom era of the 1950s, their current production of The Comedy of Errors that moves the location to 1980s Miami is less successful.  Shakespeare's comedy follows Egeon, a man searching for his lost wife and twin sons...Mistaken identity and confusion abounds in what is one of Shakespeare's lightest and shortest plays. Director Pasha Yamotahari has updated the setting to the sun-drenched Miami beaches and city streets and while the colorful and exotic locale and zany characters would seem to fit well with one of Shakespeare's most farcical shows, the execution doesn't quite succeed. This is partly due to the Bard's language, which includes puns, jokes, and wordplay that don't really hold up well today, and also because of Yamotahari's decision to include slapstick that is too forced and a stream of updated supporting characters who aren't funny or remotely related to the Miami setting. For example, what do a Doctor who uses sock puppets on his hands when he speaks, a tap-dancing nun, a drag queen, a gangster, and a Harley Davidson guy with a chainsaw have to do with Miami? Perhaps the drag queen stumbled in from The Birdcage but the rest just don't make any sense. After a short time the entire idea and execution turn into a joke that wears too thin, too fast. The cast throw themselves into the parts, but with only partial success. Tony Latham and William Wilson are energetic and even outrageous at points as the servant twins Dromio, ...Emily Mohney is shrewish and expressive as the agitated and fiery wife of one of the twins and, as her sister, Melody Knudson is very comical and effective as a love-struck woman who is also very confused when she finds herself being wooed by a man she believes is her brother-in-law ....Yamotahari is a gifted comedic director, as his spotless execution of last season's One Man, Two Guvnors at Phoenix Theatre proved, so it's a bit of a disappointment that he isn't able to transfer his proficient comedic skills into one of Shakespeare's most accessible comedies. In the end, the colorful characters work but the forced comedy doesn't, though the play still comes across as a bright and breezy romp."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Monday, January 25, 2016

theatre review - THE ANDREWS BROTHERS - Hale Centre - January 18, 2016

Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 19th.

Chad Campbell, Tedd Glazebrook, Jessica Graham, and Brent Graham
Photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw 

 "The Andrews Brothers is a crowd-pleasing musical that takes audiences on a musical journey back to the 1940s. Featuring hit songs from that period, with many that were made famous by The Andrews Sisters, it is a nostalgic and charming show. Hale Centre Theatre's production features a cast of four who make the trip a fun and infectious romp. ...set on an island in the South Pacific in 1945. It follows three brothers who are the stage crew for the upcoming USO show headlined by The Andrews Sisters. Pin-up girl Peggy Jones arrives, excited for her first appearance in a big USO show ...When the Andrews Sisters are quarantined and the show appears set to be cancelled, it could be the end for Peggy's big break. But the brothers have an idea to save the show. The 25 songs in the show include many hits such as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," ... and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree,"...Director/choreographer Cambrian James keeps the sentimentality of the show in check, focusing instead on the hijinks, humor, and warmth of the characters and story. ... the Hale cast features...Brent Graham and Tedd Glazebrook, along with Chad Campbell and Jessica Graham (Brent's wife). All four create unique characters and provide tight harmonies and vibrant solos. ...The cast forms a winning foursome, especially in their working together seamlessly in the surprise-filled second act....While The Andrews Brothers may be a little sentimental or old fashioned for those who've aren't familiar with The Andrews Sisters, the sense of nostalgia and the charming, familiar songs evoke the timeless period of the piece. With a winning cast, clear direction, and period inspired choreography, Hale's production is a hilarious, lively, and ultimately very enjoyable show."

 -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - SPRING AWAKENING - Spotlight Youth Theatre - January 17, 2016

Michael Schulz, Payton Bioletto, Vincent Pugliese, Brandon Reyes, and Jeremy Yampolsky
Photo by Alayne Vogel, Memory Layne Photography
Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 31st.

"The Tony winning rock musical Spring Awakening focuses on a group of high school students in 1890s Germany and deals with issues that young adults still encounter today, such as sexual awakening and teen suicide. This very adult show is receiving a terrific production from Spotlight Youth Theatre with an age appropriate cast of teenagers who excel as the young students who struggle to find the truth about life....While director Kenny Grossman, choreographer Lynzee 4man, and the SYT creative team model their efforts on the original Broadway production team's contributions, all of whom were nominated for Tony Awards (winning three), Grossman's team also adds plenty of original touches....4man's energetic, athletic, and stylistic moves are natural expressions of the emotions the teens are dealing with. ...Mark 4Man is one of the best music directors in town and his contributions here are stellar, achieving both a lush sound with rich harmonies from the cast and a full, superb sound from the five-piece band. Also, the intimacy of the SYT space pulls the audience into the emotional content of the show in a way that you just can't get from a big Broadway theater or some of the other larger venues in town. The SYT cast is exceptional, featuring some of the best teen talent in the Valley. Payton Bioletto is Wendla and she plays her in such a naïve, heartbreaking way that you can't help but feel for her and the struggles she encounters. ...Vincent Pugliese instills Melchior with plenty of charm and his handsome, boyish looks and pure voice make it easy to see why so many people are drawn to the character. ...Sam Primack as Moritz perfectly captures the anxiety-ridden nature of the part with a wild hairstyle that is completely in sync with the inner feelings of the character. ...The supporting cast is just as good, including some who have amazing voices. ......Husband and wife Brenda and Ken Goodenberger play the Adult Women and Adult Men. They effectively give each character they play new manners and a different diction or speech pattern to set them apart from the other characters they play....Spring Awakening is a powerful and meaningful show...Presenting this award winning show uncut and complete, with appropriate high school aged actors playing the main roles, adds an entirely new layer to a great story that presents many issues that still resonate today. Spotlight Youth Theatre's production of Spring Awakening is simply stunning."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - CAROUSEL - Arizona Broadway Theatre - January 16, 2016

the cast of Carousel
Photo Courtesy of Arizona Broad
way Theatre / MikeBPhoto.net
Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 14th.

"The classic musicals of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II are beloved by many due to the memorable characters and songs they feature. But they also touch upon many social issues. The duo's Carousel is their darkest show, with an underlying focus on the effects of domestic violence. It also features their most sophisticated score... Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting a fine production of this classic musical, with a thoughtful, understated performance from Jeannie Shubitz as the female lead, Julie Jordan....Stephen Casey does an expert job in directing the show... However, while ABT's production doesn't shy away from the spousal abuse at the center of the story, it also doesn't dwell on it, and even seems to skirt away from it at points... playing it too safe. Fortunately, Jeannie Shubitz and Michael O'Brien form a realistic duo as Julie and Billy. ...Shubitz is perfect in presenting Julie as the headstrong yet discontented woman who is fascinated by Billy...Casey's choreography is a perfect combination of period steps, athleticism, and sensuality. ...The combination of four carousel set elements with Alyx-Marie Kleinsteiber's beautiful period costumes and Colin Riebel's rich lighting create an explosion of color in the magical opening, "Carousel Waltz,"...With some beautiful ballads, intriguing characters, and situations that few musicals examine, Carousel is a stirring musical. However, with a main male character who is more of an anti-hero, the serious underlying topic of spousal abuse, and several songs that flow in and out of the dialogue, Carousel has always been the one Rodgers and Hammerstein show that I've found a bit hard for audiences to truly love and fully understand. Even with my reservations about the downplaying of the abuse, the combination of Stephen Casey's clear direction and strong choreography and Jeannie Shubitz's moving and understated yet clear performance of the imperfect woman at the center of the story make ABT's production of this American classic very solid."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - OTHELLO - Southwest Shakespeare Company - January 15, 2016

Hope Brown and Amanda Renee Baker
Photo by Mark Gluckman
Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 30th.

 "Hatred, jealousy, and deception are at the core of William Shakespeare's Othello. ...Southwest Shakespeare Company's production draws upon the humor within Shakespeare's words to balance the dramatic intrigue and betrayal of the plot. ...exceptional, layered performances from Jesse James Kamps as Iago and Hope Brown as Othello, the end result is a solid production of this tale of murder and mayhem....director Harold Dixon focuses on Shakespeare's words, letting them ring clear from his exceptional cast. ...Hope Brown embodies the range of Othello's emotions quite well. ...Jesse James Kamps is just as good as Iago. He is adept at portraying the constantly plotting and determined deceiver with cunning looks, a wry smile, and a mischievous wink. His deceit shows no limits, ...As their wives, Amanda Renee Baker and Jordan Letson are quite good...While Patrick Walsh's sparse set isn't that scenically exciting, Maci Hosler's costumes and Sasha Wordlaw's hair and make-up designs are vibrant, full of color and a richness that swiftly transports us back to the 17th century setting. Daniel Davisson's lighting and Peter Bish's sound successfully evoke the moods of the play. Othello is a sobering and commanding work...the moving performances and firm direction make Southwest Shakespeare's production as strong, calculated, and forceful as Iago's deceptive plot."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

theatre review - IF/THEN - National Tour / ASU Gammage - January 12, 2016

Idina Menzel
photo: Joan Marcus
Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 17th.

"...Almost everyone has wondered what might have happened if they'd made a different decision in their past. Would their life end up better or worse based on that choice? If/Then shows the results of different decisions in one woman's life. ...In one story, based on missing a phone call about a dream job, she ends up finding love, while in the other, having taken the phone call, she ends up following her professional calling but sacrificing romance. Using mainly just a pair of glasses to signify when she is Liz (wearing the glasses), who meets the Army doctor Josh who has just returned from overseas, and when she is Beth (not wearing the glasses), who takes a high level job working for New York's urban development projects, the plot moves back and forth from one storyline to the next. Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt..have crafted an interesting and original story, though it does get somewhat confusing and convoluted. ..the power ballads wear thin after awhile and a few of the songs are completely forgettable. Also, the fact that in one story the character of Lucas, played by Anthony Rapp, is gay, while in the other he is straight, seems to be a plot device that is completely unrealistic (why would a decision that Elizabeth makes change the sexuality of another character in her life?). ...Menzel's earthy voice and intense focus on her character(s) work well to elevate the story into one where you care for her and the other people in the lives of Liz and Beth. LaChanze is a firecracker of sass and spunk, with a voice like Menzel's that soars to the rafters and beyond...Director Michael Greif ingeniously stages the action on Mark Wendland's almost constantly moving set design...Only Larry Keigwin's choreography is a bit unfocused ...While the end result of If/Then may be somewhat confusing, the powerhouse vocals of Menzel and the addition of her Broadway co-stars on the tour make this an intriguing journey to take. It will also most likely give you plenty to talk about afterwards—even if it is just trying to clarify the various plot points with your fellow, and most likely slightly confused, theatregoers."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - COCK - Nearly Naked Theatre - January 10, 2016

Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 30th.

Ryan L. Jenkins, Jericho Thomas and Dylan Kim
photo: Laura Durant

 " The somewhat controversial new play Cock...will most likely still be playing in your mind days after seeing it. Not only is it well written, but Nearly Naked Theatre's production, the play's Arizona premiere, is on par with the well-received original Off-Broadway production, with a very good cast and smart, clear and sharp direction. The premise is fairly simple. John decides it is time to take a break in his relationship with his boyfriend and when he does, he unexpectedly falls for a woman, even though he had never had those types of sexual feelings before. He must then choose which one he wants to be with. While the plot may seem a bit farfetched, playwright Mike Bartlett has crafted a 100-minute play with such depth that it is unlike anything I've seen in a long time. Simple it clearly isn't...Besides the smart dialogue, what elevates the play to something out of the ordinary has to do with the way it is staged. Specifically stated by the author to be performed without a set or props, the entire action of the play takes place on a flat, circular stage with the actors constantly moving, circling each other if they are roosters in a cockfighting ring. We are watching the "fight" unfold in front of us, and what a fight it is. We are witnesses to every plea, outburst, and demand that each character undertakes, and there are many loud arguments and emotional outbreaks.  Director Damon Dering has not only staged the piece beautifully, with good use of Clare Burnet's evocative and precise lighting, but he also draws out perfect, succinct performances from his four actors. Jericho Thomas is John, the quieter member of the gay couple at the center of the play, and Dylan Kim is "M," the more vocal and controlling half. M exudes control but also a strong need to have John in his life. Kim is stellar as the condescending, needy, persuasive, unlikable and demanding man. Thomas is also doing great work here in a part that requires many quiet moments. ...Ryan L. Jenkins is "W," the woman John meets and falls in love with. Jenkins is perfect in the part, with the right balance, like Kim, of control and need, while adding a dose of charm to W that makes us understand why John is drawn to her. ...The fourth character in the play is "F," M's father. Douglas Loynd plays the part with a huge amount of charm and an outpouring of love toward his son. F is fighting for his son's relationship, something any gay kid would love to have his father do for him....Cock is one of the most original, intelligent, and thought-provoking plays of the past ten years. The dialogue and the direction are emotional and raw without the trappings of sets and costumes. Nearly Naked Theatre's Arizona premiere production is a well acted and directed emotional knockout."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)