Thursday, September 30, 2010

Truth versus Illusion

I’m very happy to see that Mr. Porter over at his blog has offered a bit of commentary and analysis on the current slate of plays that have flooded Richmond (yes, that’s a subconscious rain reference…). His post is the kind of thing that I have hoped to write on this site and maybe sort of used to before I lost the ability to hold a single train of thought sometime in the last year. So, if you used to come here for that kind of thing, the erudite and experienced Mr. Porter may be picking up that mantle and I encourage you to check back with him often to see if he keeps it up.

John also has the first published review of “Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming” that I’ve seen up on his site. It’s a rave, in case you were wondering.

As Mr. Porter alludes to in his commentary, the reviews of “The Beebo Brinker Chronicles” have not been as favorable as RTP might have hoped. However, it’s worth pointing out that the GayRVA reviewer had many good things to say. You’ve got another couple weekends to go out to RTP’s still-new theater and make up your mind for yourself. And to see Matt Hackman's bare backside.

I’d say you have one more weekend to catch “Virginia Woolf” but it looks like the folks at the Firehouse have another sell-out on their hands so if you haven't seen it, you are probably out of luck. Congrats to all concerned, particularly director Rusty Wilson who I know put a lot of heart and soul into the show.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bumped for Beebo

Mr. Griset's review of "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles" is in this week's Style. I haven't seen the print edition yet but I'm not seeing my review of "Shipwrecked!" online so maybe it'll be in next week. Oh well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Theater and TV

Have you heard that the cast of “The Sound of Music” movie will be reunited on Oprah? That should be pretty cool. In fact, just seeing Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer together will be kind of amazing. Of course, if you want to hear some music from the show, you just have to go to the Critics awards on the 17th. Have I mentioned that tickets are for sale?

If you are one of the few “Fringe” fanatics out there (which I am), you may have been particularly tickled by an aspect of the season premiere last week. Set in an “alternative universe,” the show’s main character traveled around the entire episode in a taxi that had an ad for a “Broadway smash hit” called “Dogs.” It was a small detail, and maybe a little dated in its reference, but I chuckled just the same.

And of course, “Glee” also premiered last week, with another drop in from a well-known Broadway star, Cheyenne Jackson (looking like he’s going to be a season bad-guy as coach of Vocal Adrenaline). I enjoyed the premiere – particularly the self-parodying interview segments at the beginning. As far as performances go, I liked the contemporary numbers – especially the first version of “Billionaire” where I understood most of what was sung – way more than I liked Lea Michele’s “What I Did for Love.” Don’t get me wrong – I still love little Lea. But if the over-the-top emoting that characterizes that song was supposed to somehow touch my heart, well, it failed pretty completely.

The latest show at Hanover Tavern, “Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming,” is perhaps as far removed from that ironic, pop culture saturated TV show as possible. But I was at opening night on Friday and it was very entertaining, featuring some great performances most notably from the understated Eric Williams and the endearing Billy Christopher Maupin. I’m not sure why there hasn’t been a review in the T-D yet. Mine should be in Style next week. Until then, you’ll just have to accept my capsule comment that it’s a show well-worth making the trip out to Hanover to see.

And I have to apologize to the great folks out at Sycamore Rouge for not even mentioning the 24 Hour Experience that happened this past weekend. It sounded like a great time and I wish I had been able to make it down there for it. Maybe next time?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The reviews keep coming

This week's Style has Mr. Griset's review of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and has one for "Shipwrecked!" I also picked up a Grid magazine today that had Bruce Miller's smiling face on it and an article about, among other things, "Ferdinand the Bull." That'll be another show added to the fray before you know it. How's a guy supposed to keep up?

Oh, and Grid was nice enough to post a listing of the RTCC nominees along with a great pic from last year of our beloved JB Steinberg at the podium with the Mayor. Gotta love Grid.

UPDATE! Here's another one, Mr. Porter on "Shipwrecked!"

YET ANOTHER UPDATE! Here's Mr. Porter on "The Foreigner."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When you're up late, might as well post

Ms. Haubenstock at the T-D has been busy, with two reviews showing up over the last two days. Yesterday, she weighed in on "The Foreigner" at Swift Creek Mill and today you'll find her take on Barksdale's "Shipwrecked!" in the pages of your local edition.

And if you want another perspective on "Beebo Brinker" at RTP, Mr. Porter's review is up on his site.

The openings just keep coming this week, with "Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming" out at the Tavern this weekend. Gotta love a town with so much theater!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Just about to crash after a fine time at Barksdale's "Shipwrecked!" but happened to pull up Ms. Haubenstock's review of "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles" before logging off. Check it out!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Too Many “Cooks” Enhance the Broth

As usual, there are about a million theater-related things to talk about. Half of the time I get a second to write a blog post, I’m too overwhelmed to settle on one thing so I write nothing. The other half of the time, well, there really isn’t any other half. So let me just spew everything that’s on my mind (at least the theater-related stuff):

Among the openings this week are “The Foreigner” at Swift Creek Mill. Richard Koch is a treat in anything and everything and I expect he’ll be fantastic in this as well. Fresh face Jay Welch is also starring here. Mr. Welch was one of the many exceptional parts of “Take Me Out” last season and so also should enliven this production.

Speaking of RTCC nominee Koch and oft-nominated “Take Me Out,” have you reserved your seats for the awards yet? Don’t dawdle. Sure, the balcony seats at the Empire are great but they are further from the bar. Just saying…

And speaking of “Cook” – don’t let all of the other openings stop you from squeezing a visit in to see Larry (and Laine and Jonathan and Amy) amaze you in Firehouse’s “Virginia Woolf.” Were you one of those people annoyed because you couldn’t find a ticket to “Rent?” Don’t let it happen again!

I’ll be checking out “Shipwrecked!” tonight and have been enjoying the pictures from the show popping up on Facebook lately. Where’s that T-D review of “Beebo Brinker” at RTP though? Is there one in today’s paper? I haven’t seen one online.

What I have seen online is some positive notes on Jordin Sparks who recently started her run in “In the Heights.” They ask the question in this article about whether I’ll be running out to see the show because of Ms. Sparks. Personally, it wouldn’t take Ms. Sparks’ appearance to inspire me to see it again. I loved this show and if I’m lucky enough to have an excuse to get up to NYC again this year, I’ll see it again, with or without Sparks.

While perusing EW online, I found this review of “Chess” at the Signature. I don’t know that I’d like this show – saw a community theater production once and agree with the EW reviewer about the clunkiness of the whole conceit – but I’m fascinated that a regional theater like the Signature now warrants coverage in a national magazine. What would one of our Richmond theaters have to do to garner that same attention? Send a show to Broadway? Play host to a Broadway-bound workshop? Win a Regional Theatre Tony Award? Not sure what exactly it would take but would love to see it happen.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mondo and Beebo

Mr. Porter added his rave to all of the others I've been hearing lately about Firehouse's "Virginia Woolf." I thought the Style review might come out today but I'm not seeing it online and haven't picked up the hard copy yet. We'll have to stay tuned for that one.

One thing that I think is interesting about Richmond actors is how often they are underestimated. There are a score or more folks who have been acting in town for years -- decades for some of them -- and you tend to forget how good they are because they have played so many supporting or ensemble roles where their skills are not necessarily front and center, or they often play relatively 2-dimensional characters in big musicals or something. But when they are thrust front and center and given something really meaty to dig into, they deliver the goods.

Having watched him for years in parts big and small, I am not surprised that Larry Cook is knocking it out of the park in "Virginia Woolf." This is an actor that is clearly still learning and growing even though he's been around the block a few times. Similarly, I was reminded how good Andy Boothby can be when I saw "On Golden Pond" last month. He only had one big scene but I thought he really made it count. Gordon Bass has played so many roles I expect his resume runs to 10 pages or so. But I heard people (ok, critics -- they still qualify as people right?) talking about him with renewed respect after "Fool for Love." I felt the same way after seeing him in "How I Learned To Drive" many years ago, something along the lines of "this kid's show regular can really act."

I guess I'm feeling a little extra affection for the somewhat older generation of male actors in town because a) they are doing such excellent work and b) because I'm so clearly becoming one of the "older generation" myself.

Anyway, to change the subject to something completely different: how about that cast for RTP's "Beebo Brinker Chronicles?" Emma Mason and Matt Hackman are one of the hunkiest acting couples in town right now (can we give them a cute moniker like "Emmatt?") and Heather Falks and Kerry McGee are pretty darn easy on the eyes as well. I'm sure the show will be compelling in all of the ways its supposed to be but, knowing only the basics of the plot, I'll mostly be going to ogle the cast (see, not only am I now an old man, I'm a dirty old man!) Opening night's tonight -- don't miss out!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Was it awesome?

So last night was opening of Firehouse's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" which has a simply spectacular cast and is directed by the inimitable Rusty Wilson. I've heard from one person who said it was amazing. I would expect nothing less.

The show kicks off a fall season that is literally littered with 'must-see' shows. Which is my way of saying Don't Hesitate! Two weeks from now you'll have 4-5 shows to pick from, not to mention the "24 Hour Experience" down at Sycamore Rouge, and you're going to be sad when you can't fit them all in. So make plans now!

UPDATE: Ms. Haubenstock has weighed in on "Woolf." Looks like a winner!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Fall Arts

Style’s Fall Arts issue is out. Check out the whole thing (of course) but you might be interested in the theater preview, specifically, and maybe the article on comedy that focuses on a couple local improv troupes.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Question and Explanation

I appreciate Bruce Miller’s take on this year's list of RTCC nominees. Previous years’ awards have generated their shares of quibbles and cries of outrage, much of it fairly vociferous. I’d rather read something well-composed and coherent like Bruce’s post than hear the nasty secondhand rantings of someone who feels slighted. Criticism of the awards has been overwhelmed – at least in my estimation – by the outpouring of thanks and appreciation at the good faith effort the RTCC has put into the process. As I said after the awards last year, my favorite choices do not always get nominated and my favorite nominees do not always win, so I understand the feeling of disappointment. But that disappointment fades quickly when confronted with the joy and celebration that permeates the night of the awards themselves. Sure, the hockey pucks are the excuse to get together but the party is what makes it worthwhile.

If you’ll forgive me some collective back-patting, I think the RTCC did a pretty good job this year. Numerous exceptional performances and productions are recognized and beyond that, the list is more inclusive than in previous years. Convening as a group of 8 this year, the RTCC spread 100 nominations out between 32 productions (by my count) versus 99 noms among 27 shows last year. It may not seem like it when you consider the large number of noms that some shows received – and the unfortunate shutout of others – but I do think we’re getting better at this.

Having said that, there are two issues that Bruce touches on that I think are worthy of some discussion. (Disclaimer: I am only one critic among the 8 that make up the RTCC so nothing I write here should be construed as the official word of the RTCC. It’s all just my personal thoughts, recollections, considerations…etc. etc.)

First, the “best versus best supporting” issue. The RTCC has had to make these kinds of calls in the past as well. When is a role supporting, when is it a lead? Sometimes it’s obvious. However, in shows like “Putnam” or “Rent,” there are judgment calls that have to be made. In general (and in my opinion), the RTCC has been guided by the desire to recognize as many performers as possible. For instance, 6 actors were nominated from “Putnam.” If all of their roles were to be considered “Supporting” (which for an ensemble show like “Putnam,” that is certainly a valid argument), not nearly as many performers would have been nominated. Ours is not a perfect system but one that is approached with generosity, not scientific precision.

As I understand it, other awards organizations accept “for your consideration” applications for nominations. In these cases, a network or a producer or a studio decides which roles are leading or supporting and then they submit their suggestions for nominations. There has been talk about asking theater companies to do that here in Richmond. There has been trepidation that companies that are already understaffed and overworked – or that really don’t give a rip what the RTCC nominates – wouldn’t put the time or effort into putting together a list. So then the RTCC might be left with a situation where a production was particularly outstanding – or an individual performer was particularly exceptional – but no application for nomination is received and so they are left out.

So I ask you, all half-dozen or so of my semi-loyal readers, what do you think? Should theaters be asked to submit a recommendation to the RTCC for productions / designers / actors to be considered for nomination in specific categories? That would allow for an easy answer to the question “why is xx being considered for lead when his/her performance was a supporting one?” And it would certainly make the RTCC’s job easier. Chime in and let me know.

Next up: an answer to the Joe Inscoe question. Joe gave an amazing performance in “On Golden Pond,” recognized as exceptional by everyone I talked to. I didn’t see him in “Shining City,” but the other RTCC critics also raved about his work in that show. The group has not shied away from nominating someone twice in the same category – see Kniffen, Direction; Barker, Set Design; Hartman, Lighting Design -- so why not two for Joe?

Well, coming up with a final list is usually a zero-sum game: nominating Joe a second time would have meant dropping someone else from a category we were already tying ourselves in knots trying to pare down. There were several exceptional performances we had already reluctantly trimmed from the list. And then who could have been dropped from among the eventual nominees: the electrifying Zukerman? The hilarious Koch? The dynamic duo of Hackman and Brown? The fresh new Bloch, shining in a challenging role? The previously-passed-over Cole who made an oft-played role real and vital again? As a group, I believe we felt we had already given up so much, we were not going to give up any more.

So Joe’s “OGP” performance was not recognized. But his exceptional work in other shows was. Again, it may not be perfect but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Finally, I hope no one is picking up a sense of defensiveness in what I’m writing because I am really not feeling defensive about any of this. Mostly, I feel like there are some things that people deserve at least some explanation for – as well as many other things that will remain the result of the mysterious alchemy that is the RTCC. Even more so, I hope that, whatever you feel about the names that will be listed in the program, you will come out to the awards and support the scene in general, and the Theatre Artists Fund specifically. If it’s anything like the past two years, it’ll be a heckuva party.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A little help

Please note that the initial listing of nominees had misspellings for Christina Billew and Leilani Mork. Sorry for the mistakes.

Also, the RTCC has no budget, time or man- (or woman-)power to contact all of the nominees to let them know they've been nominated. If there are people you know who are internet/facebook adverse or don't know about these awards or for whatever reason may not know they've been nominated, can you please contact them?

Many thanks.