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Brad Wins Second Column Award

The 2012 Column Awards Gala was held last night at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, Texas.  Hosted by Executive Director/Producer and Founder John Garcia with guest hostess and Broadway legend Chita Rivera, the event brought together the entire DFW theater community to honor excellence and celebrate the theatrical arts.

Brad Stephens received the trophy for Best Supporting Actor in a Play, Equity for his performance as The Scarlet Pimpernel in Circle Theatre’s production of Seven in One Blow.  This is Stephens’ second Column Award, previously winning Best Supporting Actor in a (non-Equity) Play for his performance as George Deever in ICT MainStage’s 2009 production of All My Sons.

“Unbelievable,” Stephens commented.  “I was amazed simply to be nominated among some exceptional talent; but to be honored with this award is beyond my expectations.”

The Column Awards honors excellence in theater throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth theater community, both in Equity and Non-Equity theater companies.  This marks their 13th year uniting and celebrating the accomplishments of all artists who bring to life the art of theater.

Nominations are made by the over 22,000 readers who subscribe to The Column.  Practically everyone and anyone who is involved in DFW theater is a subscriber as well as those who love to attend and support this beautiful art.  Thus, those nominated have been chosen not only by the very peers with whom they work but also the very audiences for whom they perform.

The Column Awards is also a major fundraiser gala for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, a charity they have supported since year one.  They have raised & donated close to $70,000.00 to BC/EFA to date. The Column Awards is the only awards organization in the entire United States that donates all money raised (after expenses) from ticket sales of the gala to BC/EFA.  The Column Awards has been very honored to have been acknowledged by the national media, BC/EFA, Actor’s Equity Association, and the Broadway community for their fundraising efforts.

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Nominated for Best Supporting Actor

Nominations for the 2012 Column Awards were announced Sunday evening via a live webcast in front of a live audience.  Brad Stephens received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Play, Equity.  Stephens was nominated for his portrayal of The Scarlet Pimpernel in last year’s Circle Theatre production of Seven in One Blow, a panto written by Randy Sharp and the Axis Company, directed by Robin Armstrong.

Stephens received news of the nomination backstage during a sold-out performance of Noises Off at Theatre Arlington Sunday night.  “The work is always it’s own reward,” he said, “but it is a thrill to have your efforts recognized by your peers, especially in a pool of fantastic DFW theater talent.”  This is Stephens third nomination for a Column Award, winning one in 2010 for his work in All My Sons at ICT MainStage.

The Column Awards honors excellence in theatre throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth theater community, both in Equity and Non-Equity theater companies.  This marks their 13th year uniting and celebrating the accomplishments of all artists who bring to life the art of theater.

Nominations are made by the over 22,000 readers who subscribe to The Column.  Practically everyone and anyone who is involved in DFW theater is a subscriber as well as those who love to attend and support this beautiful art.  Thus, those nominated have been chosen not only by the very peers with whom they work but also the very audiences for whom they perform.

“This year the voting was higher than any previous year since the creation of the electronic ballot,” stated Executive Director/Producer & Founder of The Column Awards, John Garcia.  “The first day of voting alone shattered all previous years in just one day! The final voting total was close to a staggering 200,000 votes.” he stated.

“I think this was one of the most bountiful seasons of riches with the outstanding talent provided by theater companies both big and small.  So to go from countless hundreds of possible individuals and shows to just six is such a difficult decision made by the voter.  But they hold the power as The Column Awards are their voice” Garcia said.

The Column Awards is also a major fundraiser gala for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, a charity they have supported since year one.  They have raised & donated close to $70,000.00 to BC/EFA to date. The Column Awards is the only awards organization in the entire United States that donates all money raised (after expenses) from ticket sales of the gala to BC/EFA.  The Column Awards has been very honored to have been acknowledged by the national media, BC/EFA, Actor’s Equity Association, and the Broadway community for their fundraising efforts.

This year’s Column Awards black tie/formal wear Gala will be held Monday February 27, 2012 at the Patty Granville Performing Arts Center in Garland, Texas.  Cocktail reception starts at 7:00pm with the ceremonies beginning at 8:00pm.  Announcement of celebrity guest stars will be forthcoming.

For ticket info and all information about The Column Awards, go to www.thecolumnawards.org.

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Theater Jones Review: NOISES OFF

The Farce Side

Theatre Arlington pulls off an impressive feat with Michael Frayn’s masterful Noises Off

by Mark Lowry

Live theater is an interesting animal. Not only could you get two very different shows of the same piece from different companies, directors and/or actors, but you could find divergent experiences from two performances of one show with the exact same folks involved.

Michael Frayn’s brilliant 1982 Noises Off hilariously satirizes this, as a troupe of Brits perform a stinkeroo of a door-slamming sex farce called Nothing On. Noises Off is performed so often that it’s not spoiling anything to outline the three acts: The first act catches the shenanigans at a dress rehearsal for Nothing On, where we learn about the relationships and characters (meaning the actors playing the characters of Nothing On); the second act is back stage after the run has started; and the third act is after the show has been touring in England for a bit. It’s the same actors and tech people, but the downard spiral is fierce as the offstage drama—love, sexual trysts and jealousy, the same things that fuel every sex farce—overtakes what’s onstage.

So much for keeping the drama on the stage.

Going back to the idea of different productions at various theaters, this is one of the those shows that’s so popular with audiences that you can expect to see it done somewhere at least once in a year, especially with the sprawl in our Metropolitan area and the plethora of community theaters from Azle to Waxahachie.

Programming to please audiences makes sense, but Noises Off is also a serious artistic and technical challenge. I’ve seen professional productions of it that disappointed because of barely imperfect casting, unwieldy sets and slightly off timing. Those would mar any show, of course, but with a farce that depends on sushi chef-like precision in the physical timing, it can be detrimental.

Therefore, Andy Baldwin can take a glorious bow for his production at Theatre Arlington. It puts every other local production from the past decade or so to shame.

The casting’s the thing. Admittedly, on paper, the choices here might have raised an eyebrow. But almost nothing delights more in the theater than having expectations trounced, and Theatre Arlington has done it.

Ben Phillips’ smart-ass but still wry director Lloyd is not the dashing cad you often see in the role, but his is the funniest performance here, and that’s saying a lot with this ace cast.

Another standout is Michael James as the bottle-tipping Shakespearean actor Selsdon, a character too often played like a dementia-ridden drunk they pulled in off the street. There are elements of that in James’ portrayal, but in this case, you can tell that Selsdon was once a great actor (or at least in his mind), in the vein of the actor character in The Fantasticks.

Brooke (Mikaela Krantz), the woman whom Garry (Shane Beeson) brings to the country estate is often curvy and sassy, but the rail-thin Krantz (who just played a 15-year-old boy at Circle Theatre) uses her angular body as a comic device and turns Brooke into a sexy spaz. Teaming with Beeson’s marvelously vapid but charming lead actor, these two are comic gold.

The funny keeps on coming with Brad Stephens’ method actor Frederick, Sherry Hopkins has his fling Belinda, and Krista Scott as the forgetful maid, Dotty, whose tray of sardines becomes one of the play’s funniest gags. Throw in a pissy stage manager, Poppy (Robin Daniel), and a tech guy, Tim (Eric Dobbins), who will do anything so that the show goes on, and you have farcical bliss.

Jack Hardaway’s set is perfect for the script’s demands and the actors’ timing (and so is the size of Theatre Arlington’s proscenium stage), and Meredith Hinton’s costumes work splendidly.

Being the animal that theater is, it would be some feat if this cast captures this show as spot-on as they did on opening night. Then again, unlike Nothing On, most productions get stronger as the run continues. Get tickets now for the final weekend, because it’s a good guess that this one will sell out. Deservedly so.

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Dallas Observer Review: NOISES OFF

NOISES OFF

The Sound You Hear is Laughter

by Elaine Liner

Call a play a farce and it damn well better be funny. Michael Frayn’s Noises Off is far and away the farciest of all modern farces. Full of slamming doors, sexy girls, mistaken identities and stray plates of sardines, Noises Off has been setting the standard for feather-light theatrical comedy for three decades now. …

Laughs, big ones, belly-crunching, thigh-slapping, gasp-for-oxygen laughs, are what you want from a farce. You’ll get the giggles, guaranteed, at Theatre Arlington’s whizbang Noises Off, directed by Andy Baldwin, star of many of Circle Theatre’s broad comedies over the past few seasons.

Frayn’s brilliant play is a paean to stage props and crack comic timing. With characters running up and down stairs, bobbing out of doors and windows like cuckoos out of clocks and intentionally tumbling over couches, tables and their own dropped trousers, any slip-ups could be dangerous. The play then shows what happens when all goes wrong.

The first act of Noises Off finds a ninth-rate company of players in the final moments of a prolonged dress rehearsal for a typical British sex comedy called Nothing On. Their director (played by the delightfully wry and rumpled Ben Phillips) is at the end of his tether. If he can put Nothing On on, he’s off to direct Richard III. But first he has to get over the hump of a bad play and the bad actors in it.

Doors and sardines: Mikaela Krantz, Shane Beeson, Brad Stephens and Sherry Hopkins star in Theatre Arlington's NOISES OFF through January 29 at Theatre Arlington. Call 817-275-7661.

In the second act, we see what happens backstage as the six performers in Nothing On try to act comedy out front while keeping an ongoing feud between cast members from erupting into violence behind the curtain. (Jack Hardaway’s two-story scenery at Theatre Arlington turns its back on the audience for this part.) For the third short act, the Nothing On bunch, turned around to face us again, is winding up their long road tour, with cues blown, relationships soured and the play-within-the-play reduced to a shambles.

It has to move at a breathless pace to achieve maximum farce-ity, and Baldwin keeps his cast jumping like the stage is on fire. Shane Beeson makes some hilariously swift moves as the dim-bulb male ingénue, Gary Lejeune, who speaks in incomplete sentences and, like, well … you know. Like that. Playing the dim bim opposite him is Mikaela Krantz, built like a beautiful, pale stick insect and, costumed in tiny triangles of green lingerie, the funniest undressed actress of the year so far.

All the others — Krista Scott as the actress playing the sardine-juggling maid, Sherry Hopkins as the gossipy leading lady, Brad Stephens as a method actor given to nosebleeds under stress, Michael James as the dipsomaniacal old Shakespearean, Robin Daniel as the crazed stage manager and Eric Dobbins as the sleep-deprived stagehand — are the top of the tip of comedy goodness. (Their mispronunciation of the English town “Basingstoke” is a tiny but fixable flaw. It should take the long “A.”)

Other productions of Noises Off around here have suffered from size problems. Too often they were spread across a big stage (like the one at WaterTower Theatre), which ruins the tight timing needed for comedy choreography. Theatre Arlington’s small-ish space fits the play to a farthing, putting the audience close enough to catch all the subtle tosses of props and angry looks in the pantomime-heavy second act, but far enough away to take in the whole picture.

Frayn, hailed as the master of English farce after Noises Off premiered in 1982, would go on to write more brilliant plays; one about physicists, Copenhagen, and then the drama Democracy, about German chancellor Willy Brandt. But it’s this comedy that’s performed most often. Hardly a season goes by without a production of it in a Dallas or Fort Worth theater, and it’s a rare treat to see it done as well as they’re doing it in Arlington.

Noises Off is so efficient and smart, commenting on the silliness of British sex-coms but showing how hard it is to do one. It’s all so complicated, says Noises Off character Gary Lejeune: “We’ve got bags. We’ve got boxes. Plus doors. Plus words.”

Giving Frayn his due, let’s move words to the top of that list.

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Column Review: NOISES OFF

Noises Off is a glorious opportunity to watch seven slamming doors, one breaking window, 10 trips up and down stairs and 17 false entrances, while listening to 73 flubbed lines, 46 miscues, one dramatic highlight, 22 double entendres, 6 regular entendres and a million laughs all while trying to find a missing plate of sardines.”

Okay, I stole that quote from another program but it beautifully spells out the show. Noises Off has been called the funniest farce ever written. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration but not much of one. The show has also been done by virtually every professional and amateur theater company in the English speaking world. And it has been made into a movie. All of this might be both good and bad for this show.

Before the show I heard various audience members saying things like, “How many times have you seen it?” And after the show I heard comments like, “They changed a lot of lines from the way we did it.” Instead of just enjoying it, they were comparing it to other productions. Considering that and “the funniest farce” put a whale of a burden on the director and actors. I’m going to review only this performance.

Noises Off is non-stop action. Its pacing and frenetic blocking leaves the actors with little time to breathe! A problem here is that, while learning all the intricacies, it’s easy to forget to develop a character.

For the most part the Theatre Arlington cast establishes solid beginnings for their characters.

Especially strong are: Krista Scott (Dotty), who makes us believe her “dotty” character is real. Not an easy task. Mikaela Krantz (Brooke) who rides her character hilariously throughout. Her solo seduction in Act 3 is worth the price of the ticket! Brad Stephens (Frederick) who continually says, “I see that,” when we all know he doesn’t. And how often do you laugh at someone with a nose bleed? Eric Dobbins (Tim) who tugs at our sympathy as he is being run ragged by the actors.

Sherry Hopkins (Belinda) has the double duty of being funny (her dazzling smile accomplishes that) and carrying what little serious stuff that does happen. Somehow she pulls it off. I think, as the show matures and the actors get more comfortable with their scenes, the pacing and the character development will settle in. Hopefully, this will be especially true for Michael James (Selsdon). In the opening night performance he latches on to a stereotype drunk and plays that one level throughout. His credits in the program lead one to believe he’s capable of much better work.

One cannot see Noises Off without mentioning the set. In 1970, Author Michael Frayn was watching one of his plays backstage and realized that it was much funnier back there. In 1980, Noises Off was the result.

Happily, Theatre Arlington has a revolve on its stage so it’s relatively simple to turn the set around. I especially like the fact that they waited until Act 2 began to turn it around. Jack Hardaway’s set is simple and direct. At least it gives that impression. All doors and stairs, facilitating the action without distracting from it. I was a little concerned that the stairs didn’t have an outside railing, knowing that Gary would have to tumble down those steps in Act 3. Shane Beeson took the fall impressively, to the delighted applause of the audience.

Meredith Hinton’s costumes truly represent the characters; the stuffy are stuffy, the casual are casual and no one will forget (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) Brooke’s lingerie. And Shelbie Mac’s bottles and sardines are right where they ought to be – or are they?

Director Andy Baldwin has done a workman-like job of directing traffic, and has even thrown in a couple of good bits of his own. Again, as with the actors, so much attention is paid to crazy blocking, everything else slides a bit. I believe, the hands of this able cast, the show will tighten and grow as it runs. For sure, as it stands right now, it is a delightful way to spend an evening or afternoon at the theater.

Reviewed by Grant James
Associate Theater Critic
John Garcia’s THE COLUMN

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Star-Telegram Review: NOISES OFF

Theatre Arlington’s Noises Off will leave you in stitches

By Punch Shaw
Special to the Star-Telegram

ARLINGTON – The emergency rooms of Arlington hospitals should add staff and stand by in the wake of the opening of the frenetic farce Noises Off at Theatre Arlington on Friday night.

They are likely to be inundated with patients complaining of sore ribs and maybe even split guts from laughing uproariously for more than two hours without time to even catch their breaths. And after a few more performances, the cast of this extremely physical comedy may need an entire wing of a medical facility all its own.

But a little collateral damage is acceptable in the theater when the show is this funny. Certainly, the lion’s share of the credit for that always has to go to British playwright Michael Frayn, who created this madness about a hopelessly dysfunctional theater troupe’s attempts to present a deeply flawed comic romp called Nothing On. This show is the quintessential British sex farce, and most productions of it keep the laughs coming.

Few presentations, however, realize the full potential of this hysterical material as well as this one. Director Andy Baldwin puts the pedal to the metal as soon as the curtain goes up, and he never lets off. He can do so because he has such a wonderful ensemble of players. They are every bit the unit they need to be for this brilliantly structured bit of nonsense.

It is almost unfair to single out any performer, but it would also be a travesty not to acknowledge the bitingly humorous performance by Ben Phillips as Lloyd, the director of the show’s play-within-a-play. His comic timing is even sharper than his character’s withering wit.

And it would a major oversight not to call your call your attention to the nuanced performance by Shane Beeson as Garry. His perfectly measured portrayal can easily get lost in the chaos of this show’s action, but his work in the third act is as strong as Phillips’ efforts in the first act.

The second act belongs to the cast as a whole. During that section, we move behind the scenes of Nothing On thanks to a fabulous set by Jack Hardway that spins on a turntable to change the audience’s perspective. All sorts of high jinks are played out as the actors silently try to kill one another without interrupting the show out front. Krista Scott, Brad Stephens, Eric Dobbins, Robin Daniel and Michael James turn in great performances in this act just as they do in the other two.

The only flaw in the show, though, is a major one. Sherry Hopkins as Belinda and Mikaela Krantz as Brooke both do excellent jobs with their lines. Hopkins is especially good with the acting-within-acting she has to do, and Krantz scores often with visual humor. But, unfortunately, they have been cast in each other’s roles. It is a tragic blunder in an otherwise perfectly plotted undertaking.

But there is so much else going on in this relentless comedy that it can survive even that obvious misstep. Many of its noises may be off (stage), but this production’s comedic chops are spot on.

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Behind Dressing Room Doors

Theatre Arlington raises the tabs on their production of Noises Off, written by Michael Frayn and directed by Andy Baldwin.  Cast is a sampling of veteran DFW performers including Krista Scott (Dotty), Ben Phillips (Lloyd), Shane Beeson (Garry), Mikaela Krantz (Brooke), Brad Stephens (Frederick), Sherry Hopkins (Belinda), Michael James (Selsdon), Eric Dobbins (Tim) and Robin Daniel (Poppy).

Mikaela Krantz, Shane Beeson, Brad Stephens and Sherry Hopkins

Called the funniest farce ever written, this play within a play provides a hysterical glimpse of what happens backstage while rehearsing a flop of a farce called “Nothing On.” An intriguing and side-splitting glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of theater.

Noises Off opens January 13 and runs through January 29, 2012 at Theatre Arlington.  Curtain rises at 7:30 PM on Thursdays, 8 PM Fridays & Satrudays and 2 PM on Sunday afternoons.  A reception catered by BlackFinn American Saloon will be held in the lobby following the opening night performance.  Tickets are $19 with discounts for students, seniors and groups of 10 or more.  Tickets for the Thursday, January 12, 2012 preview performance are only $5.  For more information or to buy tickets online, visit www.theatrearlington.org.

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Theater Review: Panto Draws Laughs

Panto at Circle Theater Draws Laughs From Young, Adult Audience

by Peter Simek
December 12th, 2011 9:18am

Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks have built reputations of late by wowing the youngins with candy-colored spectacle while tickling adults with inside jokes and pop culture references. A much, much older iteration of this kind of humor is British Panto, which includes singing, horseplay, slapstick, dancing, and audience participation that draw on well-known folktales. Theaters typically perform these plays around Christmas for families, so it is entirely appropriate that Circle Theater offers Randy Sharp and Axis Company’s Seven in One Blow or The Brave Little Kid during the holidays, even though the subject matter does not directly relate.

Robin Armstrong (Becky’s New Car and Boeing-Boeing) directs her third show in Circle Theatre’s 30th Anniversary Season with a delicious sense for the form’s madcap spirit. The off-kilter fairytale story (an updated version of the German folktale The Valiant Little Tailor, collected by the Brothers Grimm) begins with Frankie and Mack (Eric Dobbins and Shane Strawbridge), a pair of Flatbush-sounding street folk who weave a fanciful tale to stave off their hunger and cold. A city child, The Kid (Mikaela Krantz), kills seven flies in one swat and celebrates the auspicious event with a wrestler-style belt that reads, “Seven in One Blow.” The fact that The Kid does not specify “flies” on the belt leads to hilarious assumptions by others.

The Kid journeys about Clare Floyd DeVries’ clever set of back alley bricks and graffiti meeting a variety of interesting characters. There is The Ogre (a towering Jim Johnson), The Witch (a striking Sherry Hopkins), December (a funky Michael James), a princess (Hannah McKinney), and a pea (Amy Elizabeth Jones) to name a few. Krantz (Talking Pictures and Jeeves in the Morning both at Stage West) as The Kid pulls plenty of big-eyed faces with a slightly curious, sing-songy stoner dialect, but she has an incredibly sweet singing voice and a lovable personality that are perfect for this show.

Kevin Scott Keating as The QK, a king with a hand puppet, provides some colorful wackiness. Jones’ A Pea is delightful and cute with her PSA type song about how we should all love peas. Brad Stephens (Much Ado About Nothing at Stolen Shakespeare Guild) as The Scarlet Pimpernel is “more than just an 18th century story.” McKinney as the “irritating” Princess Fartina plays a spoiled brat with wonderful, over-the-top skill.

Strawbridge is the real star of the show here, though. There is seemingly nothing this man cannot do, from ushering the audience into the theater in character, singing, performing sound effects, dancing, telling stories, connecting with the kids in the audience, to writing additional music and lyrics for the play. Bravo, sir!

Dance choreography by Sherry Hopkins is a hit, especially the Ogre’s “dance break” and the company finale. Armstrong’s campy costumes of tights, Chuck Taylors, and white Nehru jackets are awesome. Lighting and sound by John Leach and David H.M. Lambert add to the fairytale nature and ingenious effects of the show.

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.

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The Column Reviews SEVEN IN ONE BLOW

SEVEN IN ONE BLOW or THE BRAVE LITTLE KID
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

CAST

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

SEVEN IN ONE BLOW or THE BRAVE LITTLE KID
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

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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.

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