Tag Archives: Christmas

Theater review: SHE LOVES ME

 – Ordinarily, going all the way to Budapest to see a good show would be too far to go.

But in the case of Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s current production of the musical She Loves Me, which is set in that East-European capital, the journey is more than worth it.

This 1963 musical by Joe Masteroff and Jerry Bock is based on one of the most frequently adopted pieces of literature in the 20th century. It began as the 1937 play Parfumerie by Miklós László, and served as the basis for three films: the romantic comedies The Shop Around the Corner(1940) and You’ve Got Mail (1998), and the musical, In the Good Old Summertime(1949).

But this more recent stage musical has proven to be one of the most enduring adaptations, having had a strong initial outing and a couple of revivals on Broadway, with still another slated for next year. Plus, it has been a frequent visitor to regional and community theaters since its debut.

Set in a shop dealing in perfumes and various female notions (of every type), She Loves Me tracks the halting romance between fellow employees Georg (Brad Stephens) and Amalia (Lauren Morgan). The pair fall for one another in the course of an anonymous correspondence, which was apparently one of the ways boys met girls in the story’s day. But, when they just happen to wind up working in the same perfumery, they develop a highly antagonistic relationship without knowing they are the people who so warmly call one another “dear friend” when putting pen to paper (something else people used to do).

Since the course of true love seldom runs smooth on the musical comedy stage, it takes them a few major misunderstandings and several delightful numbers to get their hearts in the right place. Their efforts in that direction receive little help from their fellow bath oil peddlers, all of whom have problems of their own.

So, given the durable track record of this story, it is no shock that the plot pulls you right along. But you may be surprised at the overall quality of all of the components of this production, which marks the debut of the highly-talented and widely-booked director Robin Armstrong with this company.

Just about everyone and everything in this show sparkles like fresh snowflakes. Stephens sings his role with gusto and a strong sense of character. Morgan, who is one of the founders of the company, lends a beautiful voice to her part that we too seldom hear in this company’s shows. Sarah Powell, as the shop girl Ilona, delivers her numbers in a manner that matches her striking and fiery red tresses.

The efforts of these leading characters are consistently equaled by the supporting players. Even the minor part of the head waiter at a restaurant where Georg and Amalia have an awkward rendezvous is delivered with great verve by Billy Betsill. Most of the other singers come through just as well. But Evan Faris, as the insecure clerk Sipos, needs to have more confidence in his voice and let it rip when his number is up.

Armstrong, who is admired for her work with madcap farces, does an excellent job in her maiden voyage with a musical. She brings a keen sense of comedy and motion to her staging that gloriously enlivens the material. And her vision of the piece is perfectly complemented by Karen Matheny’s inspired choreography. The bountiful fruits of their partnership is most apparent in the staging of A Romantic Atmosphere, one of the show’s best numbers in every regard, which also features the input of Kylie Frandsen for its tango moves.

The show’s set, by Morgan, her husband Jason Morgan and Keith Glenn, is almost a character unto itself. Its rolling parts are brilliant in their design and dazzling in their execution. The only knock is that the look is far too bare. The shop’s exterior, especially needs a sign, and the interior needs some wall decorations.

Also exceptional are the period costumes designed by Armstrong and Lauren Morgan (is there anything these women can’t do?) for this show set in 1937 before and through Christmas.

The primary shortcoming of the production is that it relies on a recorded score. But that fault is offset somewhat by the fact that we get to enjoy the show’s wonderful voices without amplification in the cozy confines of the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

So, while there are just a few rough edges, there is a lot to love in this musical from a company far better-known for its works from the Bard and Jane Austen adaptations. Everything about this She Loves Me makes it easy to love it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, Theatre

Good Morning, Good Day

Brad Stephens has accepted a part in the upcoming Stage West production of She Loves Me, a musical with a book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock.

Based on a play by Miklos Laszio, Georg and Amalia are two feuding clerks in a European parfumerie during the 1930’s who secretly find solace in their anonymous romantic pen pals, little knowing their respective correspondents are none other than each other. Funny, intelligent, honest and sentimental, She Loves Me is a warm romantic comedy with an endearing innocence and a touch of old world elegance and nostalgia, yet as universal and relevant as ever in this age of internet romances.

The show opens November 1st and runs through December 9, 2012.  Stage West is located at 821 West Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76104.  For reservations and tickets, call the box office at 817-784-9378 or visit www.StageWest.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Theatre

The Column Reviews SEVEN IN ONE BLOW

by Randy Sharp & Axis Company

Reviewed Performance 11/19/2011

by Danny Macchietto, Associate Critic for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN

I took my almost 12 year old nephew, Douglas, to the official opening night of Seven in One Blow or The Brave Little Kid. Douglas is one of my back-up critics that I rely on for children’s plays in the event that I discover that I’m out of touch with the “common kid”. Despite the fact that Douglas is at the age where he is capable of acting like he doesn’t care about anything or much at all, he loved the show. It was easy to see why as this show did not touch my inner-child; it touched my outer and existing adult, instead.

Circle Theatre’s production of Seven in One Blow is an enchanting, rollicking, and joyously hip alternative to DFW’s holiday themed theatre-going season already underway. The nimble actors of a well-rounded ensemble are impeccably cast by director Robin Armstrong, creating an experience that all members of the family will enjoy.

The story follows a “Kid” who is adorned with a gold belt buckle that marks the Kid’s accomplishment of swatting seven flies “? in one blow”. The Kid travels freely amongst the discovery of characters that have popped out of Brothers Grimm fairytales, both faithful and irreverent, as an Ogre, a Princess, and other literary characters such as the Scarlett Pimpernel. Each character The Kid encounters interprets the buckle as something heroic, so gallant challenges are dared upon to the young kid.

This voyage is told through the storytelling device of the theatrical art form called the “panto”, Great Britain’s version of the pantomime, only it is the exact opposite of silence and performed with a heavy flourish of Commedia del’ Arte. In a panto the audience is relied upon frequently to be a willing participant in the story.

The high audience participation factor can be disastrous for any theatre company as there is an easy temptation for actors of a children’s play to overcompensate with their energy level. That is simply not the case here as each of the performers uses a deft hand when transitioning from scene work to audience interaction within seconds. There’s no stitching to be seen as it all feels very organic, and through it all the material never plays down or condescends to its core audience. Much of the credit for this belongs to Shane Strawbridge and Eric Dobbins who play Frankie and Mack, two bumbling, homeless guys who open the show and immediately put the audience to work as Mack tells Frankie of this wonderful adventure.

The production is not a musical, yet there are musical numbers in it; in fact, only three numbers are written for the show, but two original tunes are added by cast member Shane Strawbridge, which are very welcome as every song is a delight. I tip my hat off to Jim Johnson who gives a credible rap performance as the Ogre. Mikaela Krantz as The Kid is also very effective in her one solo number that is presented as an ode of longing for the child’s mom and dad. It was not until this moment that I fully appreciated the full range of Ms. Krantz’s skill, as well as her demanding, physical commitment to the role.

All the design elements cohesively meld together to create a visual and aural experience that is pleasing both to the eyes and ears. The set design by Clare Floyd DeVries is refreshingly open, taking place in an alleyway behind a loading dock. The lighting design by John Leach and the costume design by Robin Armstrong are complementary of each other.

Ms. Armstrong’s choice of colors is rich in palette but never too bright. Many of the costumes, thankfully, are creative in simple and suggestive ways. The perfect example is her design concept behind A Pea, played by Amy Elizabeth. Having the actress sport a pregnancy pouch in green layers is an inspired choice.

Properties Designer John Harvey, Sound Designer David H.M. Lambert, and Dance Choreographer Sherry Hopkins deserve a special round of applause for their collaboration in pulling off the nifty centerpiece of The Kid’s plight with a swarm of flies, set to the music of Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee. The effect of this effort is nothing short of magical and so is this production.

Given the reactions that I saw from kids ages 4-12 in the theatre, opting to see Seven in One Blow versus a 3-D animated family entertainment, such as Happy Feet 2, would be a wise investment in your child’s imagination. You don’t even need special glasses to be a part of the action.

Director – Robin Armstrong
Stage Manager – Sarahi Salazar
Set Design – Clare Floyd DeVries
Lighting Design – John Leach
Costume Design – Robin Armstrong
Properties Design – John Harvey
Dance Choreography – Sherry Hopkins


Frankie – Eric Dobbins
The Witch – Sherry Hopkins
December – Michael James
The Ogre – Jim Johnson
A Pea – Amy Elizabeth Jones
The QK – Kevin Scott Keating
The Kid – Mikaela Krantz
Princess Fartina – Hannah McKinney
The Scarlet Pimpernel – Brad Stephens
Mack – Shane Strawbridge

Circle Theatre, 230 West 4th Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Runs through December 17th

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm
Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors, $12.50 for children. All tickets purchased online have a $3 service fee.
For information and tickets, go to http://www.circletheatre.com or call 817-877-3040

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, Theatre

Review: “Plenty of Holiday Fun”

Circle Theatre’s new show offers plenty of holiday fun

By Mark Lowry
Special to DFW.com

FORT WORTH — In the States, we like our holiday theater with a heavy dose of Dickens. But in his homeland, they prefer it with corny jokes and singalongs in a daffy fairy tale retelling, otherwise known as panto.

Fort Worth gets a taste of the form at Circle Theatre with Seven in One Blow or The Brave Little Kid by New Yorker Randy Sharp and Axis Company. Sharp and her colleagues were at Saturday night’s opening at Circle, and they have every reason to be pleased with the second professional production of their confection.

The anchor story is the Brothers Grimm tale of the Kid (a terrific Mikaela Krantz) who killed seven flies with one swat and then bragged about the feat without mentioning that the victims were insects.

That led others to think the kid had slain something much larger. Re-imagined as an urban tale, it’s narrated by homeless guys Mack (Shane Strawbridge as the most motivating emcee you’ll ever encounter) and Frankie (Eric Dobbins). The fly-slaying kid’s journey includes an Ogre (perfectly ogre-the-top Jim Johnson) and Scarlet Pimpernel (a hilariously stiff Brad Stephens).

Directed by North Texas’ maestro of farce, Robin Armstrong (who also handles costume design), Circle’s production takes some liberties with the British panto style and with Sharp’s original version. For instance, the role of the QK is meant as a “dame” role, or a man in outlandish drag. Here, Kevin Scott Keating is dressed as a foppish king, holding and voicing a sharp-tongued rod puppet for the Q part of that equation. The swap works.

Others in the cast having too much fun include Sherry Hopkins (as a formalwear Witch), Michael James (as December) and Amy Elizabeth Jones as a green vegetable kids normally don’t like.

For about the first half of Circle’s existence, it produced silly melodramas at Christmastime. It makes sense that, to close its 30th season, it would return to a delightfully bonkers way of making merry.

SEVEN IN ONE BLOW or The BRAVE LITTLE KID runs through December 17, 2011 at Circle Theatre, 230 West Fourth St., Fort Worth, TX 76102 in Sundance Square.  Call the box office at 817-877-3040 to reserve tickets or visit www.circletheatre.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, Theatre

Review: SEVEN at Circle

Circle Theatre’s current production is a holiday farce high on absurdity.

by Jimmy Fowler for Fort Worth Weekly

One of my favorite theatergoing experiences in recent years was Circle Theatre’s 2008 holiday production of A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant. If you missed that nontraditional and rather biting musical, it featured a cast of children reenacting the story of L. Ron Hubbard’s founding the Church of Scientology as if it were a warm-hearted Christmas show. I’m still not sure how Circle executive director Rose Pearson got approval from the board for that one, which left some audience members cheering and others clapping politely but suspiciously, perhaps fearing they’d been duped. But that show remains my gold standard for artistic bravery during a holiday season when many theaters rely on familiar, comforting cash cows to help fund the rest of their seasons. Audiences are assaulted by so many nutcrackers, Scrooges, and workshop elves during this time of year that any fare that’s significantly different feels like a thrilling daredevil display.

The cast of Circle’s Seven in One Blow is more than game for some adventuresome, nontraditional holiday fare.

Circle’s newest holiday high-wire act is the regional premiere of Seven in One Blow, or The Brave Little Kid. This contemporary urban retelling of a Brothers Grimm story was adapted by New York playwright Randy Sharp and first staged in 2002 by the Off-Broadway troupe the Axis Company. It has since become Axis’ own warped little Christmas tradition, revived each December. Circle handed this interactive show to its unofficial resident director of farce, Robin Armstrong, and the results are just as glorious as I’d hoped. While Seven in One Blow is sweeter and more commercial than Children’s Scientology Pageant, Armstrong –– a self-professed Monty Python fan –– has brought out compelling hues of Terry Gilliam-esque grotesquerie and absurdity that give this show a nice edge. Circle’s staging achieves the impressive feat of appealing to “children of all ages” as well as tired, leather-hearted critics looking for a new reason to cheer holiday theater.

The protagonist of the original Brothers Grimm tale was a mild-mannered tailor who undergoes a series of challenges with monsters and tyrants to become a king. In Sharp’s stage adaptation, the lead character is The Kid (played in the Circle show by Mikaela Krantz), who wanders away from neglectful parents and must overcome various obstacles on the city streets. The title Seven in One Blow refers to The Kid’s recurrent boast that he killed seven bothersome flies with one swat –– he even gets the phrase emblazoned on a huge belt buckle. Full of foolish bravery, he tangles with the eyepatch-wearing Ogre (Jim Johnson, a towering and goofy presence); a king named QK (Kevin Scott Keating), whose queen is a screechy blonde puppet in a black sequined dress; and QK’s greedy, superficial daughter, Princess Fartina (a delightfully vulgar Hannah McKinney). The Kid also encounters the green Pea with self-esteem issues (Amy Elizabeth Jones, who brings surprising tenderness to a despised dinner staple) and the Witch (an icy and disdainful Sherry Hopkins), who has kidnapped the month of December (the aristocratic Michael James) –– she holds him on a glittery leash to keep the land forever cold. The Kid’s sidekick is the dandy-ish, French phrase-dropping Scarlet Pimpernel (Brad Stephens). Through all of this, the audience is encouraged to sing, boo, and cheer by two wisecracking homeless men (Shane Strawbridge and Eric Dobbins, both boisterous and inventive) who serve as the show’s masters of ceremonies.

Set designer Clare Floyd DeVries and costume designer Armstrong have apparently borrowed ideas from sources as diverse as Sesame Street and The Who’s Tommy. The look of Circle’s show veers from utilitarian ghetto chic to Bob Mackie fabulous. Similarly, the performances are comically gritty and elegantly subversive, achieving a lunatic pitch that allows each actor to carve a memorable character from what could have been a hallucinatory mishmash of random Alice in Wonderland-style types. Saturday’s opening-night performance (which was attended by playwright Sharp and several members of the Axis Company) had a couple of problems with pacing as the show alternated between songs and comic vignettes, but those will likely be worked out as the run goes along. All of the performers had inspired command of their roles, but a special nod should go to Keating for making his shrewish queen puppet an authentic and bizarre cast member.

Krantz tied Seven in One Blow together with a marvelous turn as The Kid. Though she’s in her mid-20s, she could easily pass for 14, and she infused her character with the unsentimental tomboy charm of child actors like Tatum O’Neal and Jodie Foster. The gender-bending twist at the end of the show wasn’t much of a surprise, but by that point Krantz had successfully created a universal child hero who drew a bit from both genders. Circle’s Seven in One Blow pulls from a crazy menagerie of inspirations but, beyond all odds, finally comes together as a bold and sophisticated holiday adventure.

SEVEN IN ONE BLOW or The BRAVE LITTLE KID runs through December 17, 2011 at Circle Theatre, 230 West Fourth St., Fort Worth, TX 76102 in Sundance Square.  Call the box office at 817-877-3040 to reserve tickets or visit www.circletheatre.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, Theatre

Circle Theatre Offers Free Tickets

Circle Theatre is offering FREE TICKETS to children 6 -11 and up to two adults per family.  These tickets are good for the opening week of our upcoming production, Seven in One Blow.  They will be available on a first-come-first-served basis, by calling Circle’s Box Office at 817-877-3040, from noon – 5pm, Tuesday thru Friday.  These FREE TICKETS  are for Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings at 7:30pm and Saturday afternoon at 3pm, November 17 – 19.

Children, 6-11, are still eligible for half price tickets for the rest of our run. Group rates for parties of 10 or more are also available.

Leave a comment

Filed under Theatre

‘The Christmas You Get You Deserve’

For those of you who care enough to follow this blog, here are a few gifts I would like to share with you on this most extraordinary of holidays.

First, if you haven’t yet read my previous post, The Music of the Light, I invite you to do so.  What began as a rant against ugly Christmas decorations morphed into heartfelt joy for this season.  As I am exhausted after a long Ebenezer Scrooge run, I don’t think I can put words to my feelings as effectively as I did there.

Recently I heard a song called I Believe In Father Christmas.  I don’t know why I had never heard this song by Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer until a couple of weeks ago on XM’s Classic Vinyl channel, but it instantly struck a chord with me the moment I became aware of it. 

Here is a version by U2 for your enjoyment:

Here are the lyrics:

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin’s birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas Tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire
They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
And they told me a fairy story
‘Till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
‘Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas you get you deserve.

I Believe In Father Christmas by Greg Lake

I understood the message decrying the over-commercialization of this sacred holiday, how its meaning is lost on those of us who focus on what we want over what we wish to give, and our culture’s slipping grasp of the true power of this season.  A little research turned up some interesting interpretations but here’s what Lake has to say about his song:

I find it appalling when people say it’s politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, you’ve got to talk about ‘The Holiday Season.’ Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance. And I do believe in Father Christmas.

I thank you, Mr. Lake, for using your gifts to bring us such a wonderful song as only you could have produced.

Lastly, here is a little bit of my childhood I carry with me in adulthood especially at this time of year:

May the true Spirit of peace on Earth and goodwill toward Man be present in your heart today.  And may we all be blessed with a Christmas better than we deserve!

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal

‘Ebenezer Scrooge’ Takes Final Bow

The Pocket Sandwich Theatre has closed the doors on Ebenezer Scrooge for the 2008 season completing a very successful run of 23 performances to sold-out crowds.  I had a great time with the entire cast and I can easily say it was one of the highlights of my career.  Hopefully, I can compose a better farewell at a later time but I am very sleepy now.

To the cast, crew, director, waiters, cooks and staff at Pocket Sandwich, I send you many thanks and wish you all a Merry Christmas.  God bless us, every one!

Leave a comment

Filed under Theatre

Few ‘Scrooge’ Seats Remain

David H.M. Lambert as ScroogeWith only one more week of shows left, reservations for Ebenezer Scrooge have just about been filled.  As of this moment, there are seats left for the Tuesday, November 15 and Wednesday, November 16 evening performances.  I have a report that a few seats remain for Monday, November 22 show but those will go fast.

The Christmas classic ends its 27th season on December 23, 2008.  Call and make your reservations now!

Leave a comment

Filed under Theatre

I’m Sleeping with Satan

Arlette MorganAlthough Arlette Morgan is part of a cast of fourteen undoubtably gifted performers, I simply cannot help but single her out as exceptional.  She is remarkably talented, preternaturally beautiful and the warmest of souls.  And the most amazing and joy-inducing fact about Arlette for me is this — she is my wife.

So I look forward with great delight to seeing her perform this weekend in Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s From the Beginning to the Nativity running at the Fort Worth Arts Center.  Despite the organization’s name, this will not be a production of one of the Bard’s works; rather, it is a medieval mystery play.  What is a medieval mystery play?  Glad you asked!

Medieval mystery plays began in the 10th century as serious church performances and developed into colorful and theatrical spectacles involving the whole community. Our concept for this show borrows from both the ancient and the modern. We have chosen to perform these plays as Shakespeare might have seen them as a boy, with Elizabethan costumes and settings, but with a contemporary holiday twist. We hope that these plays will be as silly and as moving as they were hundreds of years ago.

Plays being presented are The Creation, Noahʼs Flood, The Procession of Prophets, Josephʼs Trouble About Mary, The Salutation of Elizabeth, The Offering of the Magi, The Flight into Egypt, The Slaughter of the Innocents, and The Purification of Mary.

— from a Stolen Shakespeare Guild press release

Arlette will be portraying a number of personas in this production, the most notable being that of Lucifer — that highest of created beings who grew prideful, rebelled against God and became Satan.  Hence the title of this post.  I have to make this clarification lest she go medieval on my ass.Stolen Shakespeare Guild

If you enjoy the opportunity to see a true professional actress practice her craft, then I highly reccommend you come out and see Arlette’s show.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.stolenshakespeareguild.com, by calling Theater Mania at 1-866-811-4111, or you can buy your tickets at the box office starting one hour before show time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal, Theatre